An Introvert in an Extrovert Family

The central subject for one to understand in Stoicism is oneself, and I think I know myself very well; yet knowing my lover and her family has, unexpectedly, provided insight on myself that I never truly grasped when I was solitary. As I am drawn towards a more philosophic life (ie stoicism), I find that it both illuminates, and is illuminated by, my daily life; particularly, my relationship with my lover and her family. In three years of matrimony, our greatest struggles have been in regards to how I treat her family, especially her parents (who are currently guests in our house for several months).

I am an introvert. I enjoy friends, and had numerous as a bachelor; yet it was never a necessary or consuming part of my life. I have sometimes considered myself a recluse, but such an extreme definition is, perhaps, too extreme; so let me be content with reclusive. Now that I and my lover are married, and have two children, I am quite content with them as the limit of my social life. Sure, I try to be friendly with those at work, and social as expected of my rank and position, yet I have secluded myself (and am content) to the social limits of the nuclear family.

My wife is an extrovert. Her entire family (parents, six [living] siblings, 19 nieces/nephews, etc…) is extroverted. From a distance, it was generally easy for me to interact with them (minus the discussions resulting from cultural and linguistic differences); however, I now, and for the previous three months, find our home filled with my lover’s parents. This is amicably tolerable at best, and on the precipice of separation at the worst moments.

Why? Because I find myself instinctively more passive-aggressive and malcontent; like a caged beast lashing out at a bewildered audience. The lion’s share, perhaps all, of the blame is mine. I am neither accustomed nor happy with such enduring invasion of privacy and convivience, which, through my in-law’s gracious and servicial behavior, has shown me how not only an introvert can feel when necessarily in the world of many extroverts but also how different people can, talking about the same actions and virtues, come to polar opposite judgements and definitions of said actions and virtues.

Recognizing the perilous and unpleasant situation this is for everyone, my meditations have driven myself to those of Marcus Aurelius; and his Meditations have illuminated my recent past and show a very stoic (and it seems successful so far) way for an introvert to live in a world with extroverts.

May you understand yourself and those around you,

May you seek virtue, harmony and well-being for all,

May your actions be guided by calm reason and love,

Always adapting to circumstances, always true to virtue.

Fanaticism and Intolerance

I saw this photo recently on Facebook along with an article about how the woman with the Bible and US flag was no different than an almost identical photo of a Middle Eastern woman with a Qur’an; both armed with weapons. I saw many of the same photos with the caption of “what’s the difference?” At first, I was tempted to agree: after all, fanaticism and intolerance are fanaticism and intolerance regardless of whatever ideology is using them; fanaticism and intolerance are transcendent, always going against freedom of choice and individuality.

Is it that simple, though? Violence, after all, can be either a force for or against freedom. Violence, like fanaticism and intolerance, is transcendent of belief, meaning any number of different and competing ideologies could use violence as a tool for contrary ends. When I thought about this concept of violence I began to also think about these women’s motivations for the violence they are symbolic of: US imperialism through capitalism and, since our offensive in the Global War on Terror, military action; and Islamic fanaticism.

Further, even fanaticism and intolerance may not be inherently bad. For someone could be fanatical about any number of virtues, such as love or protecting the innocent. And what if we were intolerant of liars, murderers, rapists and others who are intolerant or otherwise evil? So perhaps any kind of fanaticism or intolerance should not be wholly judged on its face, but taken in context of what is being fanaticized.