I was recently asked if I was open minded. As with most people, I assumed I was. I was put to the test to find out. I started with a sojourn through the dictionary to find out that open mindedness is often confused with scientific inquiry, which uses basic assumptions and “givens” to build concrete truths. The conclusion that one can not be both open minded and have convictions comes from lack of clarity about this distinction
Clarity leads to power. The power to be open minded is not however, to have no convictions about what is wrong and what is right.
It is to be understand there may be no wrong or right, or that every statement might be both correct or incorrect on some level.
Our minds are very delicate instruments that are able to be switched on or off. When we have made up our mind about something, it is switched off and will not compute. People assume that what they have learned is correct and will not learn more.
Yet learning is a step by step process. The foundation over which the tower is built must be strong, or the tower will crumble. We must therefore constantly recheck our foundations and be willing to believe that there is a possibility that more can be learned.
Further, by painful experience, I have learned that no knowledge can be taught, it can only be learned. So no new learning will exist without the true ability to have an open mind.
Think back upon the times you have learned new things. It comes only from experience, or the ability to have confidence in a teacher willing to share experience on a heart to heart level.
I have not jumped off any cliffs lately, but my conclusions tell me that I will die if I do so. I understand, however, that if I built my tower of conclusions upon a different foundation, I could have the conviction that I could live if I jumped off the cliff, if my mind as open to the foundation.
It is so important to get your own experience or accept another who has been there that our subconscious mind will not learn without this experience.
I had lunch with a friend who asked the waitress how the coffee was at the restaurant. I immediately reacted to the uselessness of the question because of my feeling the speaker would be biased. What would she say? The coffee is bad here. Not realistically. The further pointlessness of questioning the waitress about the coffee, was even if she was honest, her life experiences might have caused her to hate the coffee, while I might have loved it. If I acted on her opinion, I would thereby deprive myself of enjoying the restaurant’s coffee, until I could make my own decisions.
In my experience, every person I have met is a living manifestation of his belief system and convictions. The only actions people are capable of taking, are those which they believe their lives prove are right. If they took an action, they advise others to do the same.
This leads me to the following conclusion about learning: Be very careful about experiences that you take from others as opposed to your own life experiences. Any conclusions or convictions drawn from others could be wrong.
Convictions, however, help us function and not contemplate all day long, because it is difficult to both contemplate and act and the same time.
If we could do it successfully, we would be like goldfish swimming around the bowl. The goldfish, according to scientists, has no cognitive memory about his past life experiences, so every trip around the bowl is a new trip.
Now here is a story about a child who is open minded:
A Clean Sweep
One afternoon a little Chaim Karpelstein was playing outdoors. He used his mother’s broom as a horse and had a wonderful time until it was getting dark.
He left the broom on the back porch. His mother was cleaning up the kitchen when she realized that her broom was missing. She asked little Chaim about the broom and he told her where it was.
She then asked him to please go get it. Little Chaim informed his mom that he was afraid of the dark and didn’t want to go out to get the broom.
His mother smiled and said “Don’t worry Chaim. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Hashem is everywhere and he will protect you.”
Little Chaim opened the back door a little and said “Hashem, if you’re out there, hand me the broom.”