“Often it’s best to be silent”

Often it’s best to be silent
When all around you are speaking,
To be like a captain out at sea
In the midst of storm:
Calm but deeply focused.

People may say:
Don’t be passive,
Speak your mind,
Come out from your shell.

These people misunderstand
Your stillness for passivity,
Your silence for fear,
Your depth for a protective shell.

They may ask:
What are you thinking?
What are you feeling?
Why don’t you share?
Why don’t you join in?
Are you shy?
Are you upset?

Let these questions come and go,
These people do not understand you.

They want to draw you out onto the surface
You need to be drawn back down into the depths.
They want you to be light and cheerful,
You need to be true to how you are truly feeling.
They want you to be who they want you to be,
You need to be who you are.

They do not understand
That underneath your calm surface intense storms rage,
That saying nothing does not mean you have nothing to say,
That spoken words and surface forms mean little or nothing to you,
That you would prefer to spend your days with the silent desert,
Your nights with the wordlessly powerful sea,
Hours of darkness passing in you like winds through a tree.

You are the captain of your own ship.
Why should you let anyone else captain your ship?

In the midst of storm,
You remain calm but deeply focused.

In the midst of fire,
You remain cool but not cold.
You let your emotions run their course
In the complex inner rivers of your heart and mind.

In the midst of the earthquake,
You remain steadfast and unshaken.

In the midst of the hurricane,
You remain the eye that observes
Without being disconnected from what you observe.
You remain the eye to be connected with the more-than-I.

So when the next person asks:
Why don’t you talk more?
When the next person says:
Don’t be so passive,
Speak your mind;
When the next person tries to draw you out onto the surface,
Tries to pull you up like a prize fish from the deep, still water…

Read them this poem.

6 thoughts on ““Often it’s best to be silent”

  1. If I were to ever write an autobiography I would, with your permission, use this as the opening quote. 🙂
    Then again, maybe I’d put it at the end, as it would be hard to follow that.
    Well done…you’ve captured the essence of introversion to a tee!

    • Wow, high praise, I appreciate your feedback. Permission granted. That was my goal. And I wrote it in the second person so others, whether introverted or extroverted, could more readily identify. Not that introversion needs any more proponents, with the barrage of books on it coming out. And although I like all those books more or less, I prefer making the experience of being an introvert personal to me. The poem definitely comes from personal experience. I’ve heard all those statements and questions in some form many times, but then again there are times when I take introversion to new heights, or maybe age-old depths, times when maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to come to the surface for a breather.

      • You nailed it. I think I find myself bending to the will of others more often than I like. My wife is an extrovert and happy wife…
        I could definitely tell you were close to the subject matter despite being in second person. 🙂

    • I couldn’t reply to your second comment for some reason. I tend to appear to bend to the will of others while inside I am fiercely resisting any sort of intrusion or control. But the appearance is why I have been called passive, and I think why many introverts are perceived that way. To have a relationship with someone who understands both the appearance and the reality would be ideal. Yeah, I figured it would be fairly obvious that I was close to the subject matter. It is difficult for me to write in any other way. If I ever want to try my hand at fiction, I’ll have to work on that. Is your wife the jade plant muse you wrote about?

      • In ways yes and no. She has a fiery spirit that mystifies me but the muse was mostly fictional. I definitely think you should push more fiction. I’d read it. 🙂

  2. I have been working on taking your advice to be silent Brian; harder for me as an extrovert but I often find myself saying the wrong things at the wrong time, and I want to be a better listener and observer, something introverts have a natural gift for being.

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