Everybody has a “box” representing his or her personal narrative or paradigm. Some are large, expansive, have numerous openings, and are painted bright colors; while others are small, dark, restrictive, and have no windows. Each of us has a certain inherent limit on how far we can step outside the box.
Our ability to be correct about any given idea or fact is limited. We are faced with information that increases daily, but becomes obsolete almost as fast as it is written. Much of the information is irrelevant, or is in fact the disinformation intended to confuse us. Perspective, values, and tastes impact what we believe to be correct, as they should. But they are not necessarily objective. As E.O. Wilson said, “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.” So should we just give up and go home?
Our goal should be to develop a radical sense of open mindedness and couple that with the humility that comes from realizing how difficult it is for us to see the big picture. We must!, must!, must! abandon our instinct to be right about every opinion we hold! Being wrong, on a position or fact, IS NOT FAILURE, it is a step on the road to knowledge. Learning is not the difficulty; it is our vanity, conceit, smugness, and arrogance in the value we place on our own views.
Quick, without thinking, tell me the location of your car keys and how often did you lose those keys last month? What will you have for dinner tomorrow night? What will the stock market average be in 6 months? How do you construct a bridge? How much manure should you use to grow a tomato?
Ok, now please tell me how do you maintain world food production; create world peace; produce decent living standards for the planet; protect the environment; guarantee liberty and justice for all; foster spiritual growth; expose corrupt powerbroker; and prevent an argument with your significant other over what movie to see?
The conclusion is self-evident. We need everyone’s help, the young and the old, those with experience and those who are hungry to learn, the rich and the poor, male and female, Democrat and Republican, believer and non-believer, the weak and the strong, those with education and those with common sense, as well as representation from all of our American generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X’ers, Millennials,…you get the picture. None of us can see the forest for the trees, but working together we can.
Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.
True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance.
Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.
If you have never changed your mind about some fundamental tenet of your belief, if you have never questioned the basics, and if you have no wish to do so, then you are likely ignorant. Before it is too late, go out there and find someone who, in your opinion, believes, assumes, or considers certain things very strongly and very differently from you, and just have a basic honest conversation. It will do both of you good.
It does take great maturity to understand that the opinion we are arguing for is merely the hypothesis we favor, necessarily imperfect, probably transitory, which only very limited minds can declare to be a certainty or a truth.
A true Democratic Spirit is up there with religious faith and emotional maturity and all those other top-of-the-Maslow-Pyramid-type qualities that people spend their whole lives working on. A Democratic Spirit’s constituent rigor and humility and self-honesty are, in fact, so hard to maintain on certain issues that it’s almost irresistibly tempting to fall in with some established dogmatic camp and to follow that camp’s line on the issue and to let your position harden within the camp and become inflexible and to believe that he other camps are either evil or insane and to spend all your time and energy trying to shout over them.
The one thing that I want every single child to have experienced at some point in their life, as part of their education, is to have some idea they hold to be true, and at the very basis of their being, proved to be wrong. Because that opens your mind to the realization that the world is different than you thought it would be, and you have to begin to open your mind to the possibilities of existence. And opening your mind frees you, it doesn’t constrain you. It makes the world more wonderful, more exciting, and more worth living in.
If you cannot be open-minded, then you do not possess your ideas, your ideas possess you.
No person can open another person, All we can do is wait. And then work with the openness when it occurs.
The beliefs which we have the most warrant for have no safeguard, but a standing invitation to the whole world to prove them unfounded.