Copyright 1999 By J.J. Dewey, All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with full permission from Joseph J. Dewey, Author
Chapter Twelve - The Open Mind (Exerpt)
Open-mindedness is, in the last analysis, open-communication, and being an open communicator can greatly enhance a relationship. The amazing point is that everyone seems to view themselves as being open-minded. I have a friend who asks nearly everyone he meets if each one thinks of himself as being open-minded. He has asked hundreds of people and, without exception, all of them so far think they are as open-minded as the best of us. On the other hand, you and I know that there are many closed-minded people. We meet them every day - people who refuse to consider or even hear a divergent point of view.
After my friend asks concerning their open-mindedness, he then proceeds to converse with them in a logical sequence using unorthodox data which goes contrary to their preconceived notions. Nine times out of ten, the person will shut off communication on the subject; in other words, he closes down his mind. It is interesting to note that even after this mental shutdown, the person will still insist that he is open-minded. It is interesting to watch a person shut down his mind and afterwards insist that it is still open.
This is one of those subjects where we need to define our terms to clarify communication, for the numerous people who argue over the word obviously have different concepts of it.
An emotional person who shuts his mind off to enlightened communication will insist he is open-minded because he seems to use the following definition. To him open mindedness is: "A willingness to hear an associate's point of view briefly expressed." When that point of view contradicts something he 'knows' or feels to be right, the case is closed and the communication must immediately end or change direction; how can he consider something he knows is wrong? He is always willing to consider additional knowledge pertaining to points of view he already agrees with.
Using this point of view, anyone can be open-minded, for all of us encounter additional light on concepts in harmony with our thinking. Nevertheless, it is how we handle opposing points of view that determines our true open-mindedness.
A truly open-minded person adheres more to the following definition: "A willingness to hear any opposing point of view and a willingness to exchange facts and data on the subject and follow a logical sequence with the data until a conclusion or consummation is achieved. " The mind remains open to two-way communication until this consummation is reached.
The closed-minded person shuts down lines of communication as soon as a point of disagreement is apparent. He then thinks that the person who disagreed with him is closed-minded. He may feel that he expressed himself clearly and that the other party should therefore see as he does and agree with him. If the other party does not agree, he is judged as closed-minded whether the lines of communication are open or not.
To disagree, debate or argue is not being closed-minded, but, as the word implies, it means to close the mind down so there can be no further communication on the mental level.
It is amazing how many people accuse others of being close-minded merely because they disagree and then, immediately after making this accusation, they shut down their minds and refuse to communicate. Who is the open-minded one? Is it the person with lines of mental communication open and desiring to reach a conclusion, or the one who stated his case and shuts down?
In a two-way conversation where there is a mental disagreement, the first person who turns off communication is the more closed-minded of the two. In other words, he closes his mind first.
Every person alive has certain facts and data stored in his mind he believes to be true. The test for open-mindedness comes when another person states a case that runs contrary to those "true facts." An open-minded person does not disregard the data he believes to be true, but will be open to the possibility, however remote, that the data is not a fact. For instance, in arguing about addition, he does not disregard the "fact" that two plus two equals four. The acceptance of certain facts such as this is essential to create a chain of data to reason with. On the other hand, as impossible as it may seem, he must be open to the remote possibility that two plus two equals something else and be willing to carry on a two-way conversation about it.
An open-minded person is not necessarily always correct. He will not always be convinced in an argument, but is much more likely to change his mind when presented with a sound argument over a weak one. A sound argument is one that commences with exploring a point of view and leading in a logical sequence to the conclusion.
Let us say that I believe that the moon is made of green cheese. I can believe in something even this ridiculous and still be open-minded. If someone comes along and tells me that the moon is not made of green cheese "because the Pope says so" am I closed-minded because I reject this argument?
No! An open-minded person needs logic and facts to convince him. A mere statement of belief by another person will mean little to him. Why should the Pope's opinion be more valid than my own?
If someone says that the moon is not made of green cheese because that is a silly notion and "I personally know it is not," am I being closed-minded for not accepting this?
No. Again, no reasoning is presented; what I think I "know" is just as valid as what another person thinks he knows.
If someone says that the moon is not made of green cheese because the scientists and authorities say it is not, am I being closed-minded for not immediately accepting this?
Again, the answer would be no. The arguer has not told me why these authorities reached this conclusion and has presented no facts or reasoning.
Let us suppose that another person comes along and says: "The moon cannot be made of green cheese because the moon is not green. Look at the moon and see for yourself."
Am I being closed-minded for rejecting this? Yes. This person is presenting more than a mere statement of either his opinion or another's. He is offering me a chance to look and see for myself.
Am I being closed-minded if I say: "The moon certainly does not look green, but the gray color COULD be caused by a distortion of our atmosphere?"
No. This is a logical possibility that needs to be explored from my point of view.
After I have sorted this out I may then look at the moon and ask myself: "Whatever made me think the moon is made of green cheese when the moon is not green? It must be made of grey cheese."
Am I being closed-minded now?
No. No one has proven to me or presented a logical argument that the moon is not made of any kind of cheese. They merely proved it was not green and I accepted it. I am still open to communication on the subject.
Later another comes along and shows me some actual pictures taken from the moon's surface and scientific data on core samples and says: "Here we have irrefutable evidence that the crust of the moon is, in many ways, similar to the earth and no cheese of any kind was found on the moon after a half dozen trips."
Am I closed-minded if I reject this? Yes. The thought that the moon was made of cheese may have been a cherished belief of mine for decades and it may be very difficult to accept that this is not true, but I must strongly consider it or be a closed-minded person.
In the end, open-mindedness is open communication through the mind, or from mind to mind, until oneness is achieved. Two open-minded people placed together will eventually become one in thought. True communication leads us out of all illusion and prejudice. But we must begin to walk the path to liberation by applying honest communication in normal day to day relationships.