Saturday, February 21, 2009

Introversion & Extroversion: Recent Social Constructs?

I read something yesterday which made me stop and think about our society's current views on the ideas of Introversion vs Extroversion. The book is The Great Emergence* by Phyllis Tickle. She writes this on p132:
"The twentieth century in the United States was characterized by many things, none of them more obvious than our originally slow, and eventually rapid, shift from being a rural to being an urban people. As the decades rolled along, more and more of us left the open spaces of pastures and plains for the defined ones of streets and neighborhoods. We laid aside as well the isolation and occasional socializing of country living for the constant companionship and unavoidable socializing of town and city life. Before the century's end, millions of us would not even be living in suburban neighborhoods any longer, but rather in the much tighter confines of apartment buildings or condo complexes or multifamily buildings. Likewise, instead of earning our livelihood in solitary or near-solitary labor, more and more of us were earning it in offices or factories or commercial enterprises where we were in constant and fairly intimate contact with one another for the bulk of every working day."
This made me think of some implications of her assertions.

Contrasted with the fast-paced image cuts of MTV and action-packed movies of today, old movies seem boring to some people. In fact, many people today have become so used to such fast-paced media bombardment many of us suffer from micro-boredom. You know, using your cell phone to check your eMail and update your status on Twitter and FaceBook, and check your MySpace...multiple the unbearably long 5 minutes you spend standing in the checkout line at the grocery store! I do that. It is sort of addicting. It's why we call Blackberries "crackberries" and iPhones "crackphones" and FaceBook "crackbook".But all this activity sometimes wears me out. I like older movies because they move more slowly. I enjoy current movies as well -- but older movies don't bug me the way they seem to bug so many people. I'm neither an "old movies only" person nor a "new movies only" person. I like both-and instead of either-or.

Like many people I know, I dislike being labeled. Sometimes labels can be helpful, other times they can be too compartmentalizing. A good example is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

It is very either-or, but has a continuum between poles which helps the both-ands among us feel less pigeon-holed.

And all this made me think of a good friend of mine who is an extrovert. He is a year or two older than me and for his 40th birthday, his wife threw him a surprise party with 50-60 of his closest friends. He had a GREAT time and went on and on about how it was the best thing she'd ever done for him ever! I was at the party for a number of hours, and enjoyed myself, but stayed on the periphery. At one point I turned to my wife and said "For my 40th, please don't do this to me." She smiled, nodded, and said "Of course not!". She knows me. I like that.

On the right-hand side of this blog, if you scroll down, you will see that I score as an iNFj on Myers-Briggs. The letter "i" is lower case because my tendency to introversion is not strong. In fact, some people are surprised when they hear me say I am an introvert, because I am fairly gregarious. The key for me is long times spent with crowds of people drains my batteries, but when I am tired emotionally and spiritually, it is alone time which recharges my batteries.

Thinking backward in Ms. Tickle's time line, I wonder what my friend and I would have been like 100-150 years ago? Would he have been such an extrovert? Would I be so inclined to pull away and be alone? Perhaps the either-or-ness of the Myers-Briggs doesn't reflect true human nature and is instead more subtly influenced by the sociological changes in the recent 150 years than I originally thought.

So I wonder if the concepts of Introversion and Extroversion, as we know them today, are likewise fairly recent social constructs.

What do you think?

~ Keith

* I won't go into the details of why this is a wonderful book, but if you are a thoughtful follower of Jesus who would like a concise yet thorough historical perspective on how our current situation in Western / North American / U.S. Christianity fits into the bigger sociological context within world history you really do owe it to yourself to run out and buy it right now.

(this post is a documenting of a stream-of-thought which took around a minute to think through and over an hour to type up. It is a small example of what my friend Lisa calls "The Mind of Keith")

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Personal Best

In this post I blogged about my first-ever 10 mile run. It was awesome -- a 43rd birthday present to myself. It took me almost exactly 2 hours. That's a 12-minute mile. Since that time I've finished the 3rd 10-week Podrunner Intervals program and have progressed to running 10k (6.2 miles) in approx 60 minutes. I finished the book Running for Mortals.

I've now begun reading Marathoning for Mortals. I've set a goal for myself to run the Portland Marathon in October 2010 just before my 45th birthday.

Along the way, I want to run for fun and test my limits -- set new PBs "Personal Best"s. Today I did that. I ran 9.9 miles in 1:41:32 -- shaving almost 2 minutes off my per-mile pace!

Here's my route:

View Larger Map

~ Keith

PS -- for those, like Brett, who are curious: there is no particular significance to the fact that my routes start and stop near a cemetery. It's just where I happen to live! =O)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I Am A Runner

I am a runner.

I never thought I'd say that. At least, I never thought I'd be able to say that with a shred of integrity. I can remember being around 5 or 6 years old, in the loft of our barn, running around. Not running laps, not exercising; just running around. I don't remember what imagination-laden scenario I was playing out. All I remember is running and playing. Things changed after that though.

Growing up I never saw myself as athletic because so many other kids were so much better. I can remember at school in P.E. class and assemblies and sporting events -- especially football and track -- noticing how other kids' bodies were changing. Muscles were growing and kids who'd been puny were now solid, with visible veins standing out on their arms. I wasn't puny any more either. You can see the difference between 7th grade skinny kid and 8th grade pudgy kid.

In 8th grade I wanted to have new friends and have a body like other kids did. I knew I wasn't fast enough for the track team, so I decided to try out for cross-country. We did lots of training runs and stuff. I remember the thrill of being at the end of the line and having to sprint to the front and yell "GO!" so the next back-of-the-line kid would have to sprint forward, and so on. I was breathless and tired, but I was doing something and it felt good. Until we did real races. Against ourselves or other teams, it didn't matter. I was always either last place or 2nd to last. As I watched the other kids' smooth-running bodies I felt "less than" again. Rather than a part of a team, I felt like a liability to the team. Shameful confessions time: At one race, I was tired and didn't want to continue, so I pretended to turn my ankle so I could quit. Another time, I pretended to have lime kicked into my eyes and in my faked blindness/pain I was once again excused from finishing.

That was the last time I ran competitively, unless you count the Navy where every year I had to run 1.5 miles in 15 minutes or less to pass a physical fitness test. I always did it, but also always came very close to puking.

I've never been a super active person, and my all-time high weight is 250# in Feb of 2002. I did WeightWatchers and got as low as 183# in mid 2003. But I put almost all the weight back on. Just like I always have as I've yo-yo'd over the years.

But then a couple years ago when I turned 40, something inside my heart clicked. I finally began to care about myself in a healthy way. Cathy'd been telling me for years I should take better care of myself -- I finally started listening. But it was a rocky start. I tried to run and lift weights and diet and all sorts of things but never really got anywhere but worn out and depressed.

Then we moved to Oregon in August '07 and it is like God brought my heart to life again. In Feb '08 I began learning from God how to listen to my hunger/satiety. By June I'd gone from 220# to 206#, and was feeling good. The way I eat now had nothing to do with what the scale said. The latter was simply a measure of the former -- but not a driving force like it used to be. But I also wanted to DO something active, just for fun and to help my cardiovascular system get healthy. So I started walking and running. I blogged here about finishing a 10-week training program and running a 5K. And then again here about finishing the 2nd 10-week training program and running 8K and then celebrating my 43rd birthday by running 10 miles!

Yesterday I completed the 3rd 10-week training series and can now run 10K in around 60 minutes. But there are no more 10-week training series. So what is next? I bought a book called Running for Mortals and have set my sights on running the Portland Marathon in Oct 2010. Between now and then I would like to run a half-marathon and also run a few local 5K or 10K races. This morning I read the first two chapters and cried 3 times.

The first tears hit me as I read this in the forward:
...we really learned everything we need to know about running before we even got to kindergarten. As soon as we learned how to walk we wanted to run. We knew as toddlers that the best way to get from where we were to where we wanted to be was to run there. It still is!
We knew as small children that running for no apparent reason at all was one of life's greatest pleasures. It still is.
The door would open, and we would run out. We ran around. We chased. We ran to and from. We ran until we couldn't run anymore, and then we stopped. That's still a pretty good plan.
It doesn't matter that I've lost 40# in 12 months. It doesn't matter that I am 43 years old and in the best shape of my life. It doesn't matter if I win any races, or even if I ever compete! What matters is that I have fallen in love again with the simple joy I first learned as that 5 year old boy in the loft of a barn -- just running because I could.

I am a runner.

~ Keith