“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Ludwig Wittgenstein
Of course we introverts have feelings. We know that real grief is sometimes too deep for words. The Covid-19 plague blew in with a whiplash of emotional states, laced with adrenaline and black humor. I made jokes, rolled my eyes in the vertigo of each shifting reality and read social media — until the torrent of words, emotions, anger, f-words, words, words, f-words, knocked me down.
What exhausted me was the snap mastery, the fear-driven rush to judgment. Then the need, akin to the Biblical Job’s friends, to mouth all-knowing vindications of tragedy. It didn’t leave much room for the kind of tongue-tied response of silence and awe that made me sit, shaken and numb and full of longing. I pulled in and pulled from my shelf the books of my companion poets. In the language game, whose words would stand up to reality? Great artists who had taken harrowing journeys and sent word back. Those guides brought me across the void, helped me mourn and feel sorrow for the immensity of what is being lost.
The weeks since then have been spinning by. Spring is celebrating itself. Pink buds wave towards the future while we are stuck on reruns. The new reality is taking shape. It is technological. It is busy while being stilled. It used to be a metaphor that if you’re not online, you’re invisible. Now it is a reality.
We can’t run into people in the agora/marketplace anymore; you have to show up in a de-centered agora, online world to show presence. Without the shelter of the body, eye contact, bodily judgement, warm smile, we have to cross the threshold from private imagination to screen. Tons of people do it. Others of us cringe. On the one hand, the invisible is swallowing our selves. On the other hand, one might argue that selves expressed on social media are never quite real anyway — and now we’re engaging in a whole series of endlessly mirrored and repeated recreations. We are caught in the tension of being made invisible, at home, cloistered away from it all, or online, performing an infinite reflecting mirror of self. Then there’s the obvious extention of the love-hate relationship: our screens are not only conduits of connection with loved ones and family, but also vectors of surveillance and control, as Debarati Senyal discusses in her excellent blog about Camus and Covid. https://bullybloggers.wordpress.com/2020/03/27/the-virus-and-the-plague-albert-camus-on-covid-19/
If you were looking for how-tos for introverts, I don’t yet have the manual. Check back over the next few weeks. I’ll be writing it as we go along!