An Open Mind . . . Really?

open mind

This thing about having an open mind, sha . . .

 

So, my friend is twenty. When I visit her blog, I find only photos.

“Oh, I don’t really write stuff, I just post photos of people who inspire me.”

Lupita, Serena, Flo-Jo. I understand. She has a British passport, her parents are of African descent, and she grew up in The Netherlands. Her toned calves and arms speak of her devotion to track and field events.

She points, “I like this photo of Lupita, makes me feel that my arms aren’t too muscular.”

I understand. A long time ago, I used to clip photos of Naomi Campbell.

 

Many people I know surround themselves with images, words, and people who validate them and the choices they make. In a world of conflicting ideologies, without an anchor, one could find themselves on a raft in the middle of the ocean. It is harder to make progress while rowing in uncertainty.

I live with quotes, poems, photos, books, videos, and people who feed and reinforce what I believe. This invisible baggage, I carry with me wherever I go. Through this prism, I navigate my world and often it pits me against those who think differently, if I let it, if they let it.

 

In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring one another that our costumes of identity are on straight.  – Ram Dass

 

It is natural to run towards information that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, so I can do a fist pump, “Yeah, I was right!” Certainly, it is difficult for me to shell twenty Euros on a book by an author who trashes what I hold sacred, but you’ll find me online reading his viewpoint free of charge, like someone with an “open mind”.

Reading opposing viewpoints gives me a broader view of the world. It challenges me to question what I believe and in that process, exposes what I really believe. It stretches my thinking so I can deconstruct the author’s argument one by one and thereby hold on to mine.

Is there such a thing as reading with an open mind? Perhaps for those on a raft in the middle of the ocean and not for those on a ship anchored in the harbour.

 

The human brain knows many tricks that allow it to consider evidence, weigh facts and still reach precisely the conclusion it favors1.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

  1. Gilbert, Daniel. “I’m O.K., You’re Biased” Published: April 16, 2006 www.nytimes.com/2006/04/16/opinion/16gilbert.html?pagewanted=print

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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39 thoughts on “An Open Mind . . . Really?

  1. I console myself with a simple fact that I am sentimental and subjective in my reasoning, no matter how much I disguise it…Convening this realization to the world is what I carry with such confidence, that almost borders on arrogance.
    You may not blame when you put in context my society’s penchant for parading jingoistic views as sacrosanct, which I defer with all pleasure.
    Like I say: Opinions are free and cheap and it is no wrong to hold one not matter how vilified.

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    1. “I console myself with a simple fact that I am sentimental and subjective in my reasoning, no matter how much I disguise it….”

      Know thyself, a good beginning if you ask me 🙂

      I like to think that everyone has an opinion, even those that say thy don’t . . .

      Like

  2. I think I am very open minded; about the possibility of everyone else ultimately agreeing with me!

    Seriously though, I am mostly not the same guy I was 10 years ago; really keen on transformative experiences and will try giving most ideas their fair day in my mind’s court. That said, I do guard some very fundamental ideas very jealously and although even those have been refined over the years, they remain substantially intact. I find that I am generally as concerned about sound logic, clarified philosophy and robust methods of inquiry as much as the content & subject matter of discussion/debate.

    I have also reconciled myself to my subjectivity being just as important as my (attempts at) objectivity, in defining a healthy identity.

    So, do I have an open mind? Yes, I believe so but I also possess the keys and keep the hinges and locks well serviced & exercised.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so open-minded, I agree with everything you said XD

      Seriously, this resonates “I have also reconciled myself to my subjectivity being just as important as my (attempts at) objectivity, in defining a healthy identity.”

      Like

  3. I am surprised I did not comment on this, either I ran our of time after reading this or I forgot to push “Post Comment.” Have you ever done this? I seem to go to the next post and forget to do this simple action.
    Anyway, I think this was a great illustration of how we sometimes choose our friends. They seem to think alike with us and we bond on this communal feeling. But, it should not always be the basis for our friendships. We should extend ourselves to people who may have different points of view, different walks of life or have a culture which would enrich our lives.
    There is no sense in always being the same, since it would make life boring. But if someone is very prejudiced and we don’t speak up against their negative points of view, then we are tacitly agreeing. I have had to ‘let go’ of friends and know of one family member I never want to sit next to, at a big family gathering since she is judgmental. I try to speak kindly to her, but if she were ever to say the things she did to me, when I was a child I would have to tell her off!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like how you related this to friendship.
      @We should extend ourselves to people who may have different points of view, different walks of life or have a culture which would enrich our lives.

      I agree, we need to be stretched . . .

      Like

  4. I came across an interesting idea on this subject. What if, instead of using our conclusions as the source of identity (ie, I am a Christian because I believe in the Bible), we used our methods of inquiry as the source of identity?

    For example, you could say “I am a Christian because, so far, I like the things this belief system has done for me, but I’m always willing to look elsewhere because exploring is fun.”

    That, in my experience, makes the uncertainty much less daunting. 🙂

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    1. An interesting idea for sure and I guess you’re just sharing the tip of the iceberg.

      I suppose that in some cases people don’t feel the need to validate their source of identity by outlining methods of inquiry. They may not even be able to outline a method of inquiry, yet they still hold on to who they say they are.

      But then, if one was trying to advance a viewpoint and win people over, this might be the way to go 🙂

      Thanks Ben!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In my experience, advancing a viewpoint is one of the best ways to ensure people won’t accept your viewpoint. 😉

        Let me explain. I recently taught a class to my Korean students comparing Erwin Rommel, a gifted general in WW2 who eventually betrayed his all-time terrible boss (some guy called Adolf Hitler) and Yi Sun-shin, a Korean national hero who didn’t eventually betray his all-time terrible king during the Imjin War of 1592-1598.

        Had I told the students I thought Rommel made a better decision, they would have gotten defensive and opposed me. Had I told them I thought Yi made the better decision, they would take that as confirmation of their previous beliefs and we wouldn’t learn anything. However, by keeping my real opinion completely secret and encouraging students to attack ALL arguments, those students ended up with some much more sophisticated opinions on the matter, and many changed their minds.

        Of course, I can’t control this process very well and people are going to come to conclusions I may not share, but I don’t particularly mind that. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It must have been a very robust discussion 🙂
          I can see how/why the example you just shared might work. And if everyone listened with an ‘open mind’ they leave with a broader view, whether they agree with each other or not.
          Thanks Ben.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I keep my mind open just enough to let in opposing ideas, then I lock them down and turn them over for days. If those ideas do not survive the scrutiny, I show them the door and let another in.

    I like Zadie Smith’s collection of essays titled Changing My Mind because now that I’ve read more of her fiction and watched her interview videos, I’ve seen how some of the ideas she holds true in the essays have improved or changed. The art of reasonably changing my mind is one I’d like to perfect.

    Tall structures in earthquake regions are not built to be stiff. They are built to move (in restricted ways) with the earth’s tremors and return to their initial positions when the earth stops moving. I’ve always taken this as a good metaphor for how to build resilience in the mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eloquently said, Ife. Sometimes changing our minds has uncomfortable implications for those around us. They resist and we ‘stay’ stuck . . . 😦

      @ The art of reasonably changing my mind is one I’d like to perfect.
      Malcolm Gladwell said something along these lines too:

      “That’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being — to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.”

      http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/24/malcolm-gladwell-nypl-interview/

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “It stretches my thinking so I can deconstruct the author’s argument one by one and thereby hold on to mine.”

    “The human brain knows many tricks that allow it to consider evidence, weigh facts and still reach precisely the conclusion it favors.”

    I learnt a while ago, that to truly listen, means forgetting all that you claim to know until you have gained a fresh viewpoint on the entire picture and not just your small corner of the frame. Ok this is me rambling on again 😂😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “It is natural to run towards information that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, so I can do a fist pump, “Yeah, I was right!”

    You are right livelytwist. We’re all guilty of it…and in a way, we do need some of this stuff. Or we would feel very alone in our respective worlds.

    Hmmm. I haven’t invited a car driver to guest post on my blog. But car drivers do read my blog. I know to espouse feminism on my blog, I get a raft of weird visits from…guys who have blogs in worlds that I don’t understand at all. And it’s not even just a male centred blog.

    Maybe I should survey for reader opinions..to get a true pic.

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    1. ” . . . and in a way, we do need some of this stuff. Or we would feel very alone in our respective worlds.” I like how you put it.

      @survey readers, maybe 🙂
      But it’s your blog to write about things you enjoy. Cycling is a big part of your life, and we get that when we land on your blog. A car driver’s perspective may add flavor . . . 😉

      Like

  8. You really opened my mind here Timmi:) (I just had to start with this insufferable cliche’ ;)). As a writer it sometime becomes even more important to dust off all those cobwebs, to unzip a flabby brain from its tight covering, and OPEN up. For me it’s an unending process. Opening up to people, ideas, places, objects, myself! And in the end, like you ended this post, I choose or like or agree to what I think is right or how it should be in my opinion. Which tragically, is not openness in its truest form. Hence my struggle continues.

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    1. As does mine 🙂

      It’s also an unending process for me. Reading, researching, writing, exposes me to a world beyond my own. I think being aware that I’m not always objective (what is objective?) is half the battle won.

      Like

  9. I think we can try to have open minds, but what we’ve learnt is so embedded that we are often blind to many things. I never cease to be amazed at things I took/take for granted. I hope I am getting better at trying to walk in other people’s shoes.
    Anyway,fate has a way of turning things around for those who are too judgemental!
    Cheers
    Susan

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    1. Which is why I tend to read the comments that follow an opinion piece, for example. I usually take away something new from the perspectives shared, both for and against. It’s easy to be blindsided.

      @fate and judgement, I’ve got the t-shirt! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s funny because when I start having a visible reaction to what I’m reading – – blood pressure heightening, breathing quickening, head pounding, — it’s almost always that I am getting defensive about my own point of view. I will reread with new eyes and realize that I’m still perfectly valid in my thoughts, but this author is making a few good points as well! Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They say we apply fight or flight to ‘threatening’ information too . . .

      As an aside, I attended a meeting once where the speaker, in response to dissenting opinions shared, would begin his address with the statement, “Excellent point,” then proceed to ‘gently’ rubbish the excellent point.

      It wasn’t long before the audience started chorusing, “Excellent point,” before he did, and the hall erupted in laughter. 🙂

      Like

  11. Arguing and talking politics as a pressman on campus, I have come to the conclusion that even our most objective opinions are subjective. I believe what is important is our teachability and readiness to let go of wrong perceptions for the right ideas. But even at that, who determines what is right? I think we ultimately do ourselves… Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I think it’s not unnatural that we each have a predilection for a particular viewpoint in certain matters. And true, it’s (usually) hard to sway to a dissenting opinion—even in the face of clear proofs.
    Yet in all, whoever would grow and profit from the variety of experiences that life and people offer cannot afford to hold inflexible views on everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bunmi, you just summed up my 400 words in 2 paragraphs! Thanks 🙂

      @”. . . cannot afford to hold inflexible views on everything.” I place my emphasis on “on everything” Some core things are worth being inflexible about.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. * He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.

    * An open mind learns more in an hour than a closed mind learns in a year.

    * The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heav’n of Hell, or a Hell of Heav’n. ~ John Milton

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Very true. I was having a conversation with someone today, and at some point I got pretty tired of all the questions and answers segment that I had to say, “Fine. I get your point. Do whatever you want.”
    He did point out that this discus wasn’t to try change my mind, to I which I had responded that if it were his aim, we wouldn’t be having the conversation to begin with.

    *sighs* I love to talk about being open minded, but now that you mention it, perhaps all I have been doing is trying to protect my views jealously, even though I allow people air theirs too.

    Doesn’t feel very open minded-y 😀

    Love the quote at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s normal to want to protect your views 🙂
      The quote is from a longer article on bias. I found this illuminating as well:

      “When our bathroom scale delivers bad news, we hop off and then on again, just to make sure we didn’t misread the display or put too much pressure on one foot. When our scale delivers good news, we smile and head for the shower. By uncritically accepting evidence when it pleases us, and insisting on more when it doesn’t, we subtly tip the scales in our favor.

      Research suggests that the way we weigh ourselves in the bathroom is the way we weigh evidence outside it.” – Brad Gilbert

      I guess it helps to know that we’re not always as objective as we think we are . . .

      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/16/opinion/16gilbert.html?pagewanted=print&_r=0

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I was researching bias- biased assimilation, confirmation bias, backfire effect, etc (heady stuff), so this post was an opportunity to air my head 🙂

      The interesting thing was my findings gave me a better appreciation for my biblical worldview- Paul admonishing the Corinthians to ‘pull down strongholds’ has greater meaning. Now, someone will accuse me of confirmation bias! 😉

      Like

  15. Words of wisdom, Timi.

    Here are some word from Bob Dylan:

    He went to get the hangin’ judge, but the hangin’ judge was drunk

    As the leading actor hurried by in the costume of a monk…..

    Bob Dylan – Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts Lyrics

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure. My Bob Dylan reference about the lead actor passing by in the costume of a monk was a response to your Ram Dass quote: “In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring one another that our costumes of identity are on straight.”

        Also, Bob is an artist who surrounds himself with images and words in the lyrics of his songs, enigmatic to be sure, but colorful and playful. One mys keep an open mind (as you do) to suss out the meaning.

        Regards, Benn 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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