Sometimes I prefer thinking to talking.
You know, for an introvert, I really do like people. Really. I get along with most everybody and it takes a genuinely rude person to get on my nerves. I crave deep conversations.
But as an introvert, sometimes I prefer silence to speech. I get this sort of craving oftentimes after several hours of socialization—it's like an off switch. All of a sudden, I'm done with people. Boom. Mouths go in slo-mo and my widening eyes just can't take it all in. My ears plug up. My throat constricts. I blink rapidly. They're all common symptoms of an introvert shutdown.
In those times, I retreat to a quiet corner. Anytime this happens, I do the same action—it signifies that I'm thinking.
There's this odd gesture that somehow reflects what is going on in my head. I put my palms together, like I'm praying, and put my thumbs on my chin and my fingers just below my nose, touching my lips. Then I stare forward into space; or if space is distracting, I close my eyes like I'm doing some deep meditation.
It's a leftover from BBC Sherlock. Sometimes Sherlock does it when he's in his mind palace. I'm quite the opposite; I do it when I'm in my mind library.
You see, I don't have the time, patience, or belief to try out that mind palace thing. But “mind library” works quite well to describe my state of mind when I'm having a thought attack.
It's not really a sort of mind palace. The point of a mind palace is to organize information that you've memorized; the point of a mind library is to wander around looking up favorite pieces of information and failing to find any order whatsoever. They're strewn all about the library; spine up on the desk, ripped up on the floor, stuck to the ceiling with nineteen pieces of gum. If anything, the mind library is the complete antithesis to the mind palace.
Let me describe it to you. It's a library in the sense that it contains bits of information loosely bound together in long strings of almost-logic. However, I have very little choice about what goes through (or goes into) this mind library; I sometimes get to choose what I start out with.
Say I start out with politics. Perhaps that will lead me to the Supreme Court; then it will lead me to a Supreme Court decision having to do with a criminal versus the state of Kansas; then it will lead me to Kansas; then it will lead me to the farm; then it will lead me to a wheat field; then it will lead me to wondering what the price of wheat is; and so on, until my thoughts fly by so dazzlingly fast that even I don't know exactly what I'm thinking or how I got around to thinking it.
Inevitably, philosophy will get involved; it will start lecturing me about the subliminal worldviews of politics. Then my analyzer will tell philosophy to leave off and let the real thoughts do their work. Theology'll poke his head in next and start handing out treatises on how the Bible relates to the office of the President.
Sometimes this happens in minutes. Sometimes this happens in hours. All of it happens in my head.
I'll wander through bookshelves stocked with my stories and peruse through them; I'll look around for my essays, just to find out that they were lost somewhere in the massive nonfiction section. Once I go there I end up reading Chesterton quotes on absentmindedness and absentmindedly note the irony.
The worst thing is that sometimes I don't even enter my mind palace on purpose. Forgetfulness and my mind library, you see, are very good friends. I just stop sometimes and my face goes blank for long periods of time while my mind is off on vacation.
And lest you think I'm exaggerating, I'll have you know that I thought up this post in the shower, while analyzing the steady stream of information wandering aimlessly around my head.
So if you ever see me staring off into space, or pacing the hallway, or leaning back in my chair with my palms pressed together—just know that I'm in my mind library.
And if I'm meandering about in my mind library, I'm probably not getting anything done—but usually I can find some interesting stuff to take back to the real world and rework into stories and essays.
To close, let me leave you with a word from a dear friend of mine. It's wise and I resonate with it deeply:
“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” —G. K. Chesterton