The Introvert’s Smoking Manifesto

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Daniel Adams

Daniel Adams
Level 2, BA (Hons) Content Development & Production, 2012

Overview

To begin by stating the obvious, The Introvert’s Smoking Manifesto is metaphorical. Here I shall provide an abridged description of the concept, before I explain the nuances of the points individually.

The Manifesto concerns the difficulty of Introverted personalities to thrive in the modern world. In general terms, an Introvert is someone who functions at their most optimally as an individual, (as opposed to functioning as part of a group, an extrovert’s ideal dynamic). To elaborate, according to Jung an Introvert ‘is governed by subjective factors’ (Jung, 1921), which means the Introvert will process his or her thoughts as an individual. A common accusation from the Extrovert is that Introverts are merely “aloof” or “shy”. This is a misunderstanding of a person’s entire style of being. The essence of Introversion is not shyness. It is, as author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain, explains ‘more about how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation’ (Cain, 2012). Cain’s recent TED lecture on introversion is the main catalyst for my Manifesto, as I along with many others had never heard these concepts and personal definitions so accessibly defined in the public sphere. This highlights the idea that there is an element of bias towards Extroverted personalities in the social consciousness. In her presentation, Cain recounts an anecdote in which she is alienated by the Extrovert system of her summer camp. She feels that on the instruction of an authority (a camp leader) that team conduct is a virtue while personal, reflective conduct is a vice. Like many others in similar Extrovert-bias systems of schools and workplaces, Cain ‘got the message that [her] quiet and introverted style of being wasn’t the way to go’.

I use the concept of smoking in my Manifesto both metaphorically and literally. I will begin with the literal interpretation (as is only natural). As of July 1st, 2007, smoking indoors in the United Kingdom is illegal. Therefore, smokers have migrated to the outside, away from the incompatible constructs of the workplace, school etcetera. Smoking is a personal activity. I am only too aware that a smokers’ area (akin to grazing patches) is an impromptu social construct in itself, but the actual act (inhaling, exhaling smoke) is exclusively personal. In addition, the smokers’ society could be interoperated as a collective of like-minded individuals (more on that later). I am therefore using the act of smoking as a shorthand for escaping from an incompatible social structure, and indulging in an essential recharging process.

Now on to the more esoteric aspects of my concept of smoking. To begin with, the overwhelming evidence that supports the ill effects of smoking has instilled in the public consciousness that smoking is a destructive indulgence. For instance, Dr Carl. J. Brandt explains that ‘cigarettes contain more than 4000 chemical compounds and at least 400 toxic substances’ (Brandt, 2011); a known, indisputable scientific concrete. I have chosen such a poisonous element with the intent of highlighting the destructive mental implications of an Introvert defying her or his need for individual functioning, and attempting to adhere to an incompatible ideal or an imposed structure that is bias toward the Extrovert. For example, the draining effect of constant social stimulation will cause lethargy, and a bitterness towards the draining influences themselves (of course they are doing nothing wrong). The mental blocks caused by the over stimulation will result in clouded thinking, and will accumulate into disillusionment, and a loss of a sense of self. The sense of self is essential to an Introvert as she or he is ‘governed by subjective factors’. The absence of a sense of self results in an inability to utilise the mind. It is not only a detriment to the individual to defy Introverted-ness however, it can also be the detriment of the collective. Cain also presents the following testimony in her presentation:

Psychologists look at the lives of the most creative people, what they find are people who are very good at exchanging ideas and developing ideas, but who also have a streak of introversion in them, and this is because solitude is often a crucial ingredient to creativity.

(Cain, 2012)

By enforcing creative thinking in an environment optimised for Extroverts (for instance the forced collaboration in schools, imposed via seating plans and group activities), the Introverts are deprived of optimal thinking, and therefore everyone is deprived of the Introverts’ potential contributions. Bearing in mind Introverts ‘make up around 60% of the gifted population’ (but around 25-40% of the general population), denying the potential of Introverted thinking seems to be at odds with the zeitgeist within creative industries and institutions that proclaim to be advancing creative environments (which usually implements a system that forces shared thinking, for example by creating a completely open plan environment). By suggesting that smoking is a healthier alternative to anti-Introversion, I am highlighting the point of how essential a recognised dichotomy between Extroversion and Introversion is.

I find cigarette smoke to be an effective aesthetic representation of how Introverted thinking can function. Smoke begins as an ordered, contained plume, and as it rises, it unfurls into increasingly elaborate arabesques, until it finally disappears from view. To relate this to an Introvert thinking, a literal concrete concept will form in the mind (the ordered beginning of smoke) via an external influence. The thought will then unfurl into more abstract, conceptual ideas and form tangents (arabesques). The Introvert will then be lost in thought, fairly oblivious to external influences (like the evaporating smoke, signalling a sort of transcendence). This idea is illustrated by the gradient font of the Manifesto. As the points become more abstract (or un-hinged), the text becomes fainter, evoking the rising smoke of a cigarette.

The Manifesto

Points 1, 2, 3 and 4 introduce the areas that the Manifesto addresses. School represents the institutionalised areas of pre-adulthood, and work represents for the institutionalised areas of adulthood. Cain observes that ‘our Schools and workplaces are designed mostly for Extroverts, and for Extroverts’ need for stimulation’ (Cain, 2012). These two attitudes in the realms which are mandatory for us to inhabit are exclusively accommodating of Extroverts. Therefore it is good for an Introvert to engage in an individual activity in a solitary space outside of the construct which suppresses her/him.

‘Charismatic company’ could represent the Extrovert, or just a charismatic personality (Introverts do have the capacity to be charismatic after all!). Removing oneself from sustained charismatic company is good, as ‘groups famously follow the most charismatic person in the group, even though there is no correlation between being the best speaker and having the best ideas.’ (Cain, 2012).

Therefore, to prevent a charismatic influence from infringing on her/his thinking, the Introvert should go outside of the influence. Home represents the safe place of the Introvert. Home could be anywhere; an artist’s studio, a garden, a forest, a shed or it could be a literal home. What defines my interpretation of home is that it is not governed by an authority that is biased towards Extroversion (discounting matriarchal, patriarchal or spousal governance). An example of an Introvert thriving in their home is the artist Gustav Klimt. He produced many painting in and of his garden. I feel the following quotation that features below an image of Klimt in his garden (holding a cat; the symbol of solitary independence) represents my point: ‘Gustav Klimt was not gregarious; he was a man of few words, who preferred solitude to society. His garden not only inspired his flower paintings; it was the wellspring from which he drew strength for all his work’ (Neret, 2007, p. 51).

The 4th point re-endows smoking with its toxicity, as smoking at home where there is (ideally) no suppressing factor to escape from, is literally bad for you.

Point 5 should now be fairly self explanatory. It suggests that when contemplation is necessary (there are many instances when it is), then “smoking” is advantageous. The point that smoking is bad for you at home still stands, as contemplation at home should not require the escapist qualities of smoking.

Point 6 presents the social aspect of smoking, in particular smoking areas. To isolate Cain’s point regarding Psychologists’ observations that creative people ‘are very good at exchanging ideas’. To formulate ideas in isolation is fine, but to leave them to stagnate in the mind is akin to train as a master pianist, and never play to an audience. However, the aimless collaboration that the Extrovert biased structures enforce are not compatible with Introverted ideas.

Therefore, to remove oneself from the construct with other (like minded) people is the most productive course of action. This is not to say that the Introvert should only trade ideas with other Introverts, but it is to say that collaboration should be selective, i.e with people who are capable to engage with ideas. I refer back to Klimt and his figurehead status in the Secessionist movement. An art movement, in its essence, is a collective of like-minded individuals who create Art (products of individual contemplation) in the name of a common ideal. This dynamic is perfectly suited to an Introvert.

Point 8 addresses the important role of nature in aiding personal thinking. Nature is a concept that represents the binary opposition of the regimented structures of school and work. To be amongst nature, one must remove themselves from the structure of the institution they are in and enter into the unstructured and solitary realm of nature. To illustrate my point I refer you again to Klimt’s garden, and a now infamous quote from artist Antony Hegarty, known simply as Antony, who writes: ‘When the forests are all cleared, there will be no room left to dream’ (Antony 2010). This can be translated as ‘in the absence of nature, there is no room to dream’. If the structures of the school/work place are the devoid of nature, then we cannot think of anything beyond the structure. Therefore, whether Introvert, Extrovert or Ambivert, going for a smoke outside of the parameters of an institution grants you an intellectual freedom. Note that tobacco is a product of nature.

Point 9 has already been addressed with my thoughts on the visual qualities of smoke. To clarify, I mean to express an idea of individual contemplation.

The final point, point 10, is to serve as a transcendent evaporation of the wisp of smoke (there is no more transcendent experience than death, after all). It also sums up the idea of a destructive quality inflicted on the Introvert in the absence of privacy. The phrase is also an apposition to the smoking is bad for you mantra recited by the NHS. This makes the line quite incendiary, and would probably make a good headline, to hook the reader in.

A final note

The coded, abstract nature of my Manifesto is intended to encourage the reader to contemplate it individually (Introverted-ly). I feel that encouraging the reader to decode and contemplate the text in this way gives it an illusionary, polymorphic quality, so the reader can interoperate it however they wish (a quality also inhabited by smoke). To revert back to the analogy of the rising wisp of cigarette smoke, the Manifesto is crafted in a way that the ideas start out as concretes (the geographical concretes), and the unfurl into wider areas (such as nature and death). It is my hope that the reader will begin by thinking about the concepts I have dictated, and then expand their thinking into arabesques of their own construction.

bibliography

Antony (2010), Swanlights, Hong Kong: Abrams Images

Cain, Susan (2012), The Power of Introverts [online], TED, Available here (Accessed 26/6/12)

Jung, C.G. (1921) PsychologicalTypes [online], Classics in the History of Psychology, Available here  (Accessed 27/6/12)

Brandt, Dr Carl J. (2011) Smoking – Health Risks [online], Netdoctor Available here  (Accessed 27/6/12)

King, Karl (2008) 10 Myths About Introverts [online], Carlkingdom, Available here (Accessed 27/6/12)

Neret, Gilles. (2007), Klimt, Germany: Taschen

Rand, Ayn. (1971), The Romantic Manifesto, New York: Signet

Raunch, Jonathan (2010) ‘Caring for Your Introvert’ [online], the Atlantic,  Available here (Accessed 27/6/12)

Illustration: Fig. 1: Manifesto, illustration by Daniel Adams, 2012