Be a Fire, Not a Firework

Much to my own surprise I’ve been consistently reading every morning throughout this entire first month of 2014. Achieving this chronic behavior has been a small, persistent goal for me over the past year. The return on the time investment has been immediate. I am learning something new and something unexpected every day.

This past week I finished an interesting read called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I picked the book out on New Years Day this year, solely based on the title. Slowly I am coming to realize, despite my efforts to be extroverted, that I am a classic introvert. I enjoy restorative silence with infrequent bursts of sociability. Quiet by Susan Cain delved into the intricacies of the introversion-extroversion dichotomy, revealing it to be more of a continuum than I had originally thought.

Currently, extroversion is a trait highly valued and sought after. Most who have not reflected on their own disposition would say they are either extroverts, or wish they were. Introversion is often viewed as an inferior disposition. Cain points to the fact that we have moved from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality as one of the reasons for the overwhelming cultural shift towards being extroversion-centric.

The difference between a Culture of Character and a culture of Personality I think is straightforward. A Culture of Character is founded on the development and practice of virtue, integrity, respect, merit, and good will. An individual in the Culture of Character could be quiet, reserved, and evidently introverted without losing any value whatsoever. In contrast, an individual in our current Culture of Personality is rewarded by standing out from the crown by whatever means necessary. We now value difference, ridiculousness, loudness, and the ability to speak up and out, but not necessarily the content of that speech. We have come to value extroversion for extroversion’s sake, a concept truly void of any meaning, and many introverts are getting lost in the noise.

While returning home from a workout yesterday with my roommate I was discussing the contents of Quiet, reflecting on what I had read and trying to synthesize it all. As I brought up the Culture of Character versus the Culture of Personality, I looked for an analogy to better explain the difference. Here’s what I came up with:

BE A FIRE, NOT A FIREWORK

To me that means, be something of true value. Be something that brings life. Be something that, yes, requires an input of energy, but yields a tremendous output of illuminating energy that can last given the right fuel. Be something that can brings about change in this world just as fire once changed the course of history so many years ago.

Don’t be a passing, ejaculatory burst of energy, here now and gone in a blink of an eye. Don’t be something that only provides a purely temporal pleasure. Don’t waste your spark.

This also means, recognize the fire within other and nurture it. Ignore the fireworks. Ignore Justin Beiber.

Whether you are introverted or extroverted, be a fire for yourself and the world. Fuel the fire of others. Let’s warm the world with value and meaning. It’s 10 degrees here in State College so I could really use some heat. Thanks.

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