I kind of go back and forth on that question… In fact I believe that if you have too open of a mind you will never be able to take a stand on anything. Never be able to say, this is right and that is wrong. But in general, I believe that an open mind is better than a closed mind. Especially, in the gray areas that dominate our society and in areas that we don’t have the answers yet.
Abortion is an example of one of the more high-profile “gray areas”. Are abortions good or bad? Should they be freely available or strictly forbidden? This is a gray area to me. I believe that I have an open mind to both sides of the debate. While I hear both sides, I’m completely turned off by closed-minded people at both extremes. I believe there are valid reasons for abortions. There are also times when an abortion is misused. Finally I think some types of abortion are wrong. Where those lines should be drawn is the gray area. In some cases lines shouldn’t or can’t be drawn, in others they can and should be. I believe closed-minded people on both sides (no not just one side) of this issue prevent thoughtful debate.
One of the big unknowns in our society and a very personal topic concerns Autism. What causes Autism: diet, vaccines, genetics, or some combination of all those things? What is it and why are the impacts seen as such a wide variety of symptoms? For anything as little understood as the causes of Autism I feel it is absolutely necessary to keep an open mind. There are too many possibilities to decide you “know” the cause simply because of one bit of evidence. I do feel that science will answer the questions surrounding Autism someday soon. Once we know the realities of Autism there will be a lot of surprised, closed-minded people who believe they know the answer today. Too many people today feel that they were able to find the answer because their mind was open while the scientists and doctors had closed minds when they doubted the “undeniable cause” for Autism. But scientist and doctors doubt those “causes” and the shady “treatments” that they spawn, because there is no real proof they are right, and plenty of evidence that they are wrong. How can anyone be certain of anything related to Autism without scientifically proven evidence? I guess in that one area I am a close minded person, I truly believe without a doubt that the scientific method properly applied is the only way to learn the truth.
Too bad the scientific method doesn’t work well in all circumstances. For instance it is not very useful in predicting the outcome of personal relationships. Will a relationship work or not? Regardless of what e-Harmony and others say, there is no true way to know who is right for you. You have to take that on faith … there are no absolutes … no guarantees … and so an open mind to the possibilities good and bad is the only way to approach relationships. Don’t take things for granted. Don’t assume you “know” someone you just met. You are most likely projecting yourself or someone you have known before onto them. Wait until you really know them to fall in love. Then you’ll be falling in love with the person they are, not the person you think they are.
I don’t know who Steve W. is but I like a quote attributed to him that I found online: “Open-minded people must accept the possibility that being closed-minded is better. Close-minded people can take comfort in knowing that they are right.” I have a variation: “Open-minded people must accept the possibility that they may be wrong or close minded. Close-minded people can take comfort in knowing that they are open-minded and right.” So if you “know without a doubt” that you are open-minded, and feel that makes it more likely that you are right about “fill in the blank with any topic” then it is very likely that you are not right about being open-minded and are no more likely than anyone else to be right about the topic in question.
So am I open-minded? I think so, but I don’t believe there are many people in the world who think they aren’t open-minded. I have definitely made decisions in my life that I was certain at the time were the right decision (a sign of a closed mind). Luckily, some of those decisions turned out to be wrong and my memory is good enough to remember the feeling of certainty that I had. Humility is essential to staying open-minded. So I don’t believe that I have a completely open mind about everything and I’m not sure that I would like myself if I did. You have to have some belief that you hold without doubt otherwise you are nothing but a chalkboard for others to write their beliefs on… a pendulum that swings from one side of an issue to the other… or a weather vane to be blown in the direction of the strongest wind.
Here are some beliefs that I hold strongly (not open-minded about). You have to be open to life’s possibilities to live a full life. You have to prepare yourself for a full life physically, mentally, and emotionally. You have to pursue a full life not wait for it to happen for you. People should be treated fairly regardless of whether or not they are “like me”. Love, a strong relationship, family, and friends are what life is about. While I know that some people might disagree with one or more of my beliefs, I’ll risk being considered closed-minded to say I believe these things whether they do or not.
Like many other ideals, being open-minded should only be taken so far. However, in the pursuit of being “you” and not a weather vane, be careful about how many things you close your mind to.
PS. This is my 50th post on this blog. Like my life, it isn’t everything I want it to be yet, so I guess I’ll keep going.