The Ivory Tower Is A Choice

The key word in this experience group is "can." It's important to spend time around people who think somewhat like you, regardless of your intelligence "level." Most people conceptualize intelligence in a linear way, numbers on an IQ scale. But it is being understood more and more that there are very different kinds of intelligence, aptitudes in different areas.  

I can remember feeling isolated from others in high school and some of my early jobs. I was not a fish in water. I hadn't yet connected with others with shared values, interests, verbal skills, etc. Yet as I look back, I see that I developed some defenses that kept me apart from others.  I see evidence of the same thing in some of the posts here.  

Find good dance partners. By all means, look for people for enlivening discussion and engagement. But also notice how you engage, and don't engage with the world, and be respectful of others. The ivory tower is a pretty lonely place, and it can also be a comfort zone. Aspects of the self that are neglected atrophy.  Step out of the comfort zone now and then and risk being the fool.

EvesHarvest EvesHarvest 51-55, F 22 Responses Dec 7, 2009

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Thank you, Avatarunknown. I had forgotten about this story. It was such a lively discussion.

Wise words Eve

I believe that it feels like an inevitable fate for you. But, like other addictions, it can be fought. Start with small steps in opening up to what and who is around you. Get a book on practicing mindfulness that has practical exercises. And good luck to you.

Thank you for your support Eve. I considered trying a book rather than visiting a psychiatrist. I just can't help but wonder what the origin of ivory tower syndrome is...Is it linked to your personality and the way your mind is wired or is it caused by childhood events?

I would say that it really varies. It could be a natural tendency towards introversion. It could be depression. It could be a way of coping with bad social experiences in childhood that be came a habitual way of being int he world. There just isn't one answer for that because humans are complicated and vary a lot in their motivations.

I don't believe the ivory tower is more a choice than it is an inevitable fate. People who feel rejected by the world don't necessarily retreat to their own mind. I have been like this since I can remember and though I have many friends and feel accepted, I still can't escape the world I created in my mind. It's an addiction which many people don't realize and some eventually get so disconnected from reality that they cannot distinguish between their fantasy world and the one we live in.Feel free to differ...

I don't believe the ivory tower is more a choice than it is an inevitable fate. People who feel rejected by the world don't necessarily retreat to their own mind. I have been like this since I can remember and though I have many friends and feel accepted, I still can't escape the world I created in my mind. It's an addiction which many people don't realize and some eventually get so disconnected from reality that they cannot distinguish between their fantasy world and the one we live in.Feel free to differ...

You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :-)

Eve, I agree with your caveat of 'after a certain age'. I needed to retreat to cope with bullying at school, because I was a 'bookworm', (not a compliment when accompanied by menaces), in my case to my 'cubby hole', but intelligence means recognising the need for change and growth and hopefully I have, slowly but surely, discovered a more gregarious side to myself, though I know I will never be the 'life and soul of the party' type person, nor would I wish to be. It's about being comfortable in your own skin.

The virtues of the wooden cabin--I like it! But you make it sound as though it is too late to change. Surely not at your age!

Very colorful Farmer, I especially love how you condescended under the guise of emotional intelligence and EvesHarvest had not one but two servings of your delightful confections.

You made a very valid point on dismissing the idea of polarity. I understand the circle that connects the "poles" which makes it not black or or white. Even If I am be white... I understand that there is also a black and everything in between. (Yes that's actually where my pen name comes from and not just a clever pun).

You also have mistaken me for a misguided angry youth. My teen angst wore away years ago and while you might very well be the wiser of the two of us.. You have also condescended so that you could communicate with me. ..And I don't mind it one bit. There's just a little rock that I'll kick back in your direction which Eves brought up in her comments to me, which is there is both a sender and a receiver in communication. I heard you loud and clear, but you continue to ignore the valid points I make by dismissing them as misplaced emotion (i.e. - anger and frustration).

Your example of the use of condescension to relate to your students a lesson was already used by me directly and in the same context.

Look up my story under this topic, named "I belong" and read it and the discussion that follows. You will find said example along with so much more insight on my comments made to Eves.

The irony is that you have decided that being isolated and depressed is a negative emotion and therefore established your polar view on the matter. Your black to my white. =)

It would be a jovial moot were it not such a glaring contradiction and a perfect example of the intelligence you lack but imitate in an effort to relate to me and bring me over to the other side. A side without depression or isolation?

I implore you to read my story, understand my point as a whole, do not make Eves mistake of picking on the delivery and attempting to undermine the message based on your emotional response, and see if you can stand shoulder to shoulder with me at my pole of this sphere of life we stand on. I know it is difficult, because I can't stand shoulder to shoulder with you for very long without feeling exactly how you would feel next to me.

Understanding that neither of us is right and neither of us is wrong is the first sign of real intelligence. While I am not trying to convince you of anything, rather show you the polarity that exists in our situation I would like you to acknowledge the purpose of both. That is something you (Eves included) have denied and that is why I have called you contradictory, judgmental, and conformists.

With love (and not that passive aggressive kind you're mistaking it for),

Tobe White

Great comment, FarmerGiles. I love the imagery. It's nice to get the kind of feedback you got at the right moment in time. I think I'm fond of the ivory tower metaphor because that very term was part of the feedback that I got. Though I think my tower was more traditional (as far as the fairy tale goes); it had a wicked step-mother/witch guarding it.

First, I think intelligent people can dispense with such polar identities as "conformist" or "non-conformist." As in all things, the issues surrounding individual (self actualization) vs. society are a spectrum, colored in shades of gray.

There was a time in my life during which I would have agreed with much of what you said, TobeWhite. I was angry and rejected, and I felt the world a cruel, unforgiving place for a person of intellect. I believed that to join the Groundlings was an impossibility for me and tortured myself with loneliness.

One day, after an unsuccessful attempt to teach a group of ninth graders the finer points of Shakespearean wit, I was pondering how I could reach them (my students)? I understood and loved this material so dearly & I approached it with enthusiasm and creativity, which is what all the teacher books said was important. Why couldn't I communicate it, I wondered.

My awakening was like an interplanetary meteorite crashing down from the blue and ending as era. A student just happened to say to me: "You know Farmer Giles, you can be really intimidating sometimes."

WOW! Me? Intimidating? You mean all those feelings of rejection, isolation and inadequacy I felt were so deliberately projected from others might just be a defense against the arrogance & indifference I was sending out?

This was a real revelation for me and it really helped me start down a path of "recovery" from the very real cruelties I know intelligent people can suffer when young.

I ain't saying it is easy, but make no mistake, the Ivory Tower is a choice. I'm convinced of it.

BTW, I always imagined an Onyx tower w/ a moat & crocodiles.

The Onyx tower - so much more masculine than Ivory.

As I have thought about it, I think the caveat I would add to the title would be "after a certain age." The ivory tower, a place of retreat, can be a real gift (and a place of creativity) to get through the middle school to college years, depending on where you go to college and what cohort you are with.

I have never gone to a high school reunion. I have no nostalgic longing for it whatsoever. I'm sure many others in this group have a similar feeling. I was a late bloomer, and I wonder if others in this group have had that experience.

The thing is, once you have been doing the same thing for long enough to protect yourself, it gains a life of its own, and it can be hard to see that you might have other options. There are other smart people in the world. Life is better once you find your tribe. We aren't always born into it.

Thank you, Studentofunifyinglife (I hope I have that right), I'm glad you enjoyed it. Vancity, I appreciate your thoughtful comment. My title was a bit provocative. I wanted to start a conversation about the topic. I'm not sure why people would think I was suggesting conformity. I was suggesting some self-observation. And I certainly wasn't suggesting that popularity should be your measure of self-worth! I was talking about being able to connect with others, which involves both finding those that you can connect with, and being open to that connection when it comes along. It is really exciting and enlivening to exchange ideas with someone when it feels like you get each other, and new things come out of the conversation. There has been a dialectical tension in this thread. I like that process.

Where I did think I over-simplified is that it is a process. I, too, needed to go through a period of introspection. I still place a high value on introspection.

I have gotten no small amount of flak for my postings in this group. If my interest was in conforming, I think I could have done a better job! I'm glad that an interesting thread is going about this. And I agree that it's a sensitive issue with more than one answer.

It is important to not conform and stay a free thinker. It's not healthy to attach your self-worth to popularity, but I do see what you're saying. I think you oversimplify when you say the ivory tower is a choice. It's not always as easy as being self-aware and respectful.

Like you, I did not have good social/verbal skills (probably because I was home-schooled for a long time). Even though I did well in school, I had low self-worth- a result of being constantly ridiculed and mocked by my parents if I did something wrong.

It took years of introspection before I had the confidence to try to connect with people on a deeper level. Now I know myself well and I know what I believe (and I've realized that my parents said a lot of things they didn't mean). I think it's a very sensitive issue with more than one answer.

That is very Taoist. Balance in all things.

I sort of agree with Tobe. Ignorance is bliss. I'm agoraphobic though so my options are more limited.

Tobe, you just read a whole lot into my post that wasn't there. I don't think it is always easy to find like-minded people. I think it takes effort, sometimes a lot of effort. It might mean moving. It might mean applying to and getting through graduate school. And when you find a person or people that you really connect with, it is a precious gift. It makes a huge difference.

If you conceptualize the world in terms of either conforming and choking down cherry-flavored syrup of oblivion or being utterly alone, then your life of isolation becomes a foregone conclusion. Yes, intelligence can lead to depression and isolation, especially for young people trying to get through our education system (the US). But depression also affects thinking. The neurons that fire together, wire together. It can become very hard to see any possibilities on the horizon when you are profoundly depressed. I am suggesting that it is worth the effort to find like-minded people that stimulate you and make you feel glad you are alive. I guess in your eyes that makes me a Pollyanna.

"The ivory tower is a choice." That is your header.

You've just stated that a person can always find people to relate to? Always.

..and then you slipped in a subtle message that if you can't, well you have the ability to settle for the next best thing versus being yourself and alone?

You have an amazing gift for contradicting yourself in a very gentle pastel paste of comforting conformity. While your honey might attract more bees than my statements of non conformity you have contributed nothing to the topic other than giving people the option to be someone else. I'm sure that never causes depression, I'm sure if I did that I too might sleep better at night.

There's just one problem. Intelligent people aren't able to conform. That's the struggle that brought about the Experience Topic. It creates false sense of self and that is very much tied to depression and feelings of isolation even though outwardly it is possible for them to live the lie very convincingly.

I'll take a spoonful of that magical sugary serum that helps ease my transition into your world. Make me forget that I was once someone who understood design and consequence on more levels than you and that the choice I made to conform in the interest of companionship was the right one. Cherry flavored please.

That's me.... The compassionate fool !!!

Thanks Doll... You are sweet...

And it's fun, isn't it? I notice you are always kind in how you do it, which takes some thought and intention. So we all see through you. We know you aren't a fool!

Oh I risk being the fool all of the time, and manage to have a near perfect success rate!!!


And thank you for your kind comment, cottagekeeper.