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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Quiet, Cain, Cohen—a Restorative Niche—Hallelujah!

I just know there are connections here. If I write about this week’s activity—or Quiet—perhaps they’ll come.

You see, I can’t stop being quiet. Maybe it’s the fact that I am contemplating Susan Cain’s magnificent exploration of my private experience in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. After a thorough analysis of the introvert’s talents and essential nature, which includes the ability to act like an extrovert sometimes, she explains the necessity for “restorative niches” following events of vibrant social behavior. I think I’m in such a niche now. Usually I consider my niches of doing nothing while lying on the couch in complete silence a private matter. But Cain says it’s not only normal, it’s healthy! It’s a physiological need of people who happen to process stimulation via big-time amygdala (brain) activity, which apparently is different from the way extroverts process the same stimulation. So don’t call me! I’m in a restorative niche. In fact I might stay in this niche indefinitely because I’ve been talking so extrovertly about Quiet.

The other thing I did this week was attend Leonard Cohen’s concert at Madison Square Garden—not an obvious venue for relaxed enjoyment for introverts, but I’m a big-time L.C. fan and since he’s pretty old and I’m not exactly a teenager, I figured this might be my last chance to see him. I’ve often thought I could write a treatise about his song “Hallelujah,” probably the most covered song in history. But I hear somebody else has done just that, so I won’t waste my time; we introverts, says Cain, are very good at impulse control. However I will say that I often think the people singing “Hallelujah” are only doing it because of the catchy melody, with no understanding whatsoever of the words, which essentially say that living requires getting torn apart and having your hair cut a lot, and if you really want a divine experience while in your body, you get to the point where you say “hallelujah” to all the decimation because you are grateful that it’s burning up all the stuff that keeps you from knowing the truth of your divine experience . . . albeit sometimes excruciating.

Leonard Cohen did not disappoint. Not only was he in great bass voice, but he kneeled a lot and showcased his musicians, each of whom was a virtuoso. He did not wallow in the drama of the latest heartbreaking news events; he acknowledged them, thanked us for coming, and promised that in response to the pain, he would give everything he’s got . . . which he proceeded to do. The music was superb, the melodies so musically complex, and the poetry of the lyrics so deep that even in an audience of thousands, there was Quiet. Deep, deep Quiet. (And the capital Q is not a typo.)

Which leads me to the connections. I’m all for drama. Hey, I used to be an actor. Despite my essential introvert nature, I love dancing and making noise. I love performing. I love feeling. I think celebration can be a divine experience. As can true mourning when our hearts are broken and our hair is brutally cut. But sometimes all that dancing and performing and noise becomes false. Sometimes it takes on a kind of drunken quality and people—maybe particularly those who feel that extroversion is somehow more healthy than introversion (which, according to Susan Cain, is most of the Western world)—feel that they have to stay in this peak response. I think this is a misunderstanding.

Nobody stays at peak response—even good peaks are fairly fleeting, hence the quick word “peak!” Health requires peaks and valleys, extroversion and introversion, noise and quiet. If you can’t find the Quiet, please stop. Breathe. And allow Mr. Cohen to help you:

"Come Healing"

O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow

The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The Heart beneath is teaching
To the broken Heart above

O let the heavens falter
And let the earth proclaim:
Come healing of the Altar
Come healing of the Name

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb





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