Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Case for an Open Mind

I think some people are closed minded out of fear.  They fear being 'led astray' by conflicting viewpoints.  With others, it's an arrogance.  They think they are right, and that is that.  A lot of closed minded people are probably a combination of both.

However, I don't think people should fear being 'led astray'.  Having an open mind and listening to different perspectives isn't necessarily going to lead you astray.  You can still choose to believe what you always believed.  But the value in hearing different perspectives is it gives you a bigger knowledge base to go off of, even if you don't agree with all of it.  It makes you more informed, and better able to explain why you believe what you believe, and why you don't believe what you don't believe.

And consider this, by learning new information, you may ultimately come across information that supports what you believe anyways.  You may find out that you were right all along...but now you'll know why you were right!  Alternatively, you might find out why what you thought was wrong is wrong.  Learning new things won't necessarily lead you astray at all.

But perhaps the best reason for an open mind is it gives you the opportunity to connect dots that you may not have even known were there.  I can think of several things I've learned over the years, where taken as individual statements, they may be difficult to believe.  However, if you connect the dots, you begin to see a bigger picture you didn't even know was there.  I could probably mention a few things out of context here, and people reading this would probably think they were far-fetched.  However, if you connect them together, suddenly they seem less far-fetched.  It starts to make sense.  This is why an open mind can be a good thing, even if you dismiss something you hear initially.  At first, you might hear something that sounds far-fetched and not give it much more thought.  Later down the road, you might hear something else that sounds kind of crazy, but it stays in the back of your mind.  After a while, you hear something else that makes you think, "Hmm...that sounds similar to something I heard a while back.  Perhaps the two things are connected.  If so, that may mean that [insert topic here] I heard someone mention before may be connected too."  Sometimes, seemingly unrelated topics may be connected without you even knowing it.  But if you've had an open mind and learned a lot of perspectives about different topics, you may find yourself making connections between things you didn't even know were connected.

Ultimately, having an open mind won't necessarily lead you astray.  If it did, it's possible you wouldn't even realize you were led astray because you may feel more enlightened because of it.  A willingness to consider other perspectives makes you less arrogant (or at least seem less arrogant).  Ultimately, I think you find yourself feeling more informed and more enlightened.  Having an open mind doesn't prevent you from thinking on your own and drawing your own conclusions.  It's possible that you could be led astray by having an open mind, because there are a lot of deceivers and false information out there.  But if truth seeking is your goal and you analyze things first with an open mind and without jumping to conclusions, you have a good chance of finding the truth eventually.  Of course, it's good to continue to have an open mind once you've found the 'truth', you know...just in case that 'truth' turns out to not be true afterall. J

Hey, at the very least, you'll being able to converse with a lot of different kinds of people at dinner parties.


  1. Amen! I totally agree. I try to be extremely open-minded and always respectful that others aren't going to share the conclusions I've made and even my conclusions are liquid and not set in stone. Like they say, "never say never."

    It's sort of like religion and politics. Once you know what you are in those categories, your beliefs are set for you and you don't ever have to ask the big questions again like "do I support capital punishment?" or "was Christ my personal savior?"

    I think what probably gets liberals the most frustrated is how scared religious types and conservatives can be about gathering new information. It seems to shake their whole foundation. You can't keep people in ignorance and expect bliss. Eventually, they're going to ask questions and no one around them will answer them with any intelligence and clarity. It'll make them suspicious and they'll move on. I think a lot of once religious people feel that way about why they left the folds. The answers weren't in their faith or in their family's political party.

    I like to go without label in general. I just think it's harder once you're in a category. If you don't own a category, you can make your own decisions-like you mentioned. For instance, I'm very anti-gun, but I'm also very extremely pro-capital punishment. What a combination, huh? I am really without category and that's how I like to be. Once you have a name, you lose your independence. I want to stand on my own observations, my own intelligence, my own decisions, my own experience to make a stand one way or the other on each subject as they come along.

    However, I swore to myself after Bush, I would never under any circumstances vote for any Republican no matter what! Then, I stopped one day and said, "you're pushing yourself into a corner, you've always picked candidates based on their merits." As terrified as I am of someone like Bush or another conservative running the country, I did let my independent intelligence vote for Joe Arpaio (yeah, our crazy conservative sheriff) because honestly, I can't ignore knowledge and he's been brilliant in his position. I therefore concede to my intelligence and observation, experience and inner passions to make my decisions. Without category, without prejudice, without fear of knowledge.

    Thanks for a fantastic post! I really hadn't realized how much I've grown in the past few years until you wrote this and put it in terms that came home for me.

  2. I don't like labels either. Labels do little but divide people. When you hear that a person is 'this' or 'that', you automatically start conjuring up an idea in your head of what that person might be like. We could probably get along better if we didn't label each other. It's not that everyone needs to be alike, it's just that we should get to know each other without making assumptions about other people based on a label. In many cases, people don't get labeled by others, they label themselves and are proud of their label (i.e. Democrat or Republican). I guess in a way, it's a little bit arrogant.

    I think we'd be better off if we didn't have political parties. If everyone ran as an independent, people might pay a little more attention to the candidates themselves, instead of just liking who their 'supposed' to like. Again, that's a type of division. Without political parties, people wouldn't know who their 'supposed' to like, so the candidates would have to run on their merits. Maybe then more people would make decisions on merits, instead of voting for a political party.