My nephew lives in a school bus. More about that in a moment.
Each semester I ask my critical thinking classes two basic questions: 1) How many of you consider yourselves to be open-minded? Nearly the entire class raises their hand. And, 2) How many of you consider most people to be open-minded? Nearly no one raises their hand.
It seems we have a strong disconnect at some level. As a rule, most of strongly us prefer to consider ourselves open-minded while considering the world around us to be generally close-minded; or at least that is what my very unscientific research would suggest to me over the past 10 years. Interesting…and I do have some theories as to why I so consistently experience this response.
Perhaps by perceiving ourselves to be open and others closed, it justifies our beliefs and choices we make in life.
“They don’t think like I do because they are closed-minded. I, on the other hand, must believe what is right because I am open-minded to other thoughts and ideas yet I think differently.”
This understanding may be the perfect perceptual recipe to justify and feel good about our own beliefs and provides a pat on the back that our worldview is indeed the preferred one, if not the right one. After all, we are open and they are closed.
Yet, ironically, there are very few, if any (I have yet to meet one), individuals who are truly open-minded in the purest sense, myself included; it is a mental and emotional impossibility for most sane people.
To be truly open-minded is to float in the center of the sea on a raft, without sails, taken by any current or gust that happens to come your way. Like children, we need some boundaries and emotional pacifiers to calm our angst about living in a seemingly random universe. Our pacifiers can include the “granddaddy” binkies of science and religion, yet can also include family, friends, any variety of substances, entertainment, the list is nearly endless. These are things that give us direction and guidance (albeit perhaps often the wrong direction), though, above all, they give us hope; hope for a better day and life.
Yet these things also entrap us in a closed-minded cage as to not threaten our present need for purpose and structure, and, perhaps more importantly to the human psyche, fulfilling the need for future hope.
My very liberal left leaning friends are some of the most dangerously closed-minded people I have ever met. Of course I could say the same about my heavily right-leaning friends as well. The common “tell” of a blatantly close-minded person is they do not simply disagree with the other side, they vilify them; they are not just wrong, they are idiots and evil.
People get really weird when their hope is threatened. I know I do.
To question our own anchors of our sanity and hope is dangerous territory and few of us can do it genuinely. Is it even possible?
Interestingly, just this week a student of mine wrote the following:
I come to the “table” of Urbanovich’s class with “dogmatically” held views—views I am willing to die for….And what of my deeply-rooted beliefs? Anything worth believing is worth examining. If my beliefs are true, then I should not fear that they will crumble under the “microscope.” A person blindly married to his belief system refuses “to cast a glance through the telescope” (15) because of a perceived threat to his “dogmatically” held “opinions.” Often, he operates with a “me vs. them” mindset. This is problematic when you have a world full of people who possess their own opinions of how the world works but who are faced with a world full of problems needing to be addressed cooperatively.
Oh how I would like to take credit for this student’s awakening to the needed world of open-mindedness and critical thinking; yet, hence, as it is only the first week of class -I cannot. For she is just following the old proverb, “Once a student is ready to learn, a teacher will appear.” Right place, right time.
So this gets me full circle back to the bus. Yes, my nephew, his wife and 2 kids live in a mobile renovated school bus. For most of us, this way of life literally takes us off the foundation of a traditional home and way to properly do family life.
We have discussed this undertaking in our family and some of us, myself included, believe it to be “weird.” Yet, I understand my response is one of terrible closed-mindedness. A big part of my worldview to stay sane and have hope is family; and a family must have a permanent and “non-towable” existence in order to be normal.
No they don’t.
I am just closed-minded.
At least I know it.
Keep your hands to yourself and do not get up while in motion my dear nephew.