Just Be

My love she speaks like silence.

That’s the opening line of my favorite love song, “Love Minus Zero” by Bob Dylan, and I always think of it around Valentine’s Day. Clearly, the woman Dylan is singing about is special. She might be a woman of few words, but Dylan feels her love in every cell in his body…

She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful,
Yet she’s true, like ice, like fire.

Being a person of few words seems to matter to Dylan. Throughout the song, he contrasts the meaningless chatter of other people with the meaningful silence of his love…

People carry roses,
Make promises by the hours,
My love she laughs like the flowers,
Valentines can’t buy her.

In the dime stores and bus stations,
People talk of situations,
Read books, repeat quotations,
Draw conclusions on the wall….

My love winks, she does not bother,
She knows too much to argue or to judge.

The last verse of the song is the most haunting. It leaves me with the impression that Dylan’s love is a person we might call natural or instinctive, rather than sophisticated and verbal, and because of that, she is vulnerable…

The wind howls like a hammer,
The night blows cold and rainy,
My love she’s like some raven
At my window with a broken wing.

Dylan’s love, whoever she was, always reminds me of Dylan himself, a man who values actions more than words. In spite of being such a good poet and songwriter, he was fairly inarticulate. I don’t think he set out to find words to express meanings, like most songwriters do, as much as he stumbled upon meanings while he played with words, or left it to his listeners to stumble on meanings.

When he was being interviewed, he was notorious for hating to talk about his music… who influenced it, what it meant, what kind of musician he was. He resisted being labeled in any way that would restrict his freedom to play with words and music. And he especially hated being asked about himself. “There’s nothing that is really very interesting about me,” he said. “It’s my least favorite subject.” He could dodge questions so well that it seemed like he, himself, “spoke like silence.” When asked if he would give any advice to people he said, “Just be.”
I don’t know what type Bob Dylan is, but he really reminds me of the SPs in my life. The frustration that his interviewers went through always reminds me of the frustration that I went through trying to introduce SPs to type. No matter how well I articulated the differences between the preferences, they did not want to choose one for themselves. They could dodge the preferences so well that the clear opposites would vanish before my eyes, and I’d be left holding a big mush of everything mixed together. It seemed like they were always trying to tell me, “Just let me be.”

Like Dylan, my SP friends were in love with the unique moments of their lives, not how those moments could be grouped into patterns or rankings. And they loved the feeling of choosing the next step, not the thought that it was already chosen for them by psychological preferences.
There were some people who would happily identify themselves as SPs and speak for their types, but they were so rare that in 25 years of working in the type community, I could count the number on one hand.
I finally realized that giving an SP a tool for understanding themselves is like giving a chemist a hammer, or a carpenter a Bunsen burner. It’s a useful tool, but they’re usually not doing that kind of work. If type is going to be helpful, it’s only to me, in understanding them. One ISTP said to me, “I thought of you the other day when I did (something typical of his type).” He thought of me, because I’m the one who cares that he did something typical of his type, not him.
Well, you might ask, if the SPs in your life were so good at dodging type, how did you know they were SPs?
All I can say is…they just were.


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  1. lisa

    #1 by lisa - February 9, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Great piece! The navel-gazing and theorizing that INFJs like myself do would be so mind-numbingly boring to the SPs in my life. It takes all kinds!
  2. Jenny

    #2 by Jenny - February 26, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    yay, it so comforting to read an article so familiar. As an ISFP that just had to sit through my review, I can appreciate hating being asked about yourself. To me the question, "where do you see yourself in 5 years?" is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Yet, in the past week I've had to answer it twice to play the games we must play to keep a job and an income.

    Though I have enjoyed learning about type. For decades I felt confused about why I never seemed to fit in, especially in the corporations I have worked for, and have had to struggle for years with reconciling an outcast status. Type has helped me understand it better, and to realize that really there is nothing wrong with me, but, for some reason in a politically correct world, we are still a long way off from fully understanding and appreciating each other, and just letting each other 'be'. If anything, as issues of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation fade, a new kind of prejudice comes into play. Are you educated, upwardly mobile and competitive enough?
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