Here we are in the early twenties of the 21st Century, and it’s a really polarizing time to be on planet earth! Staying open-minded seems harder now than it’s been in living memory, and it’s a practice that calls us to task on a daily basis.
This is known as “The Information Age”, and while our computational power means that everything’s at our fingertips, it ALSO means that everything’s in our face too.
The news cycle is SO FAST these days, and certainly geared towards just two sides, now more than ever. People are encouraged to choose what “side” they’ll be on. Often they’re not often given all the information to make an informed choice.
In times like these when the information is like a firehouse, I think staying open-minded is crucial. We ALL like to think we’re open-minded, but open-minded people are busy people too. We have jobs, kids, friends, and responsibilities! We simply can’t be up on ALL the information ALL the time. It’s impossible!
What do we do when we don’t have all the information but are being forced to have an opinion? To “take a side”?
In my experience the best thing to do when presented with new information, is to be patient, and to listen. Listening doesn’t mean you agree, it just means you’re willing to be open to learning more. That’s a very real challenge in a time when ideological lines are being drawn and we’re expected to take a stand on ONE side of the line. It’s harder than ever now because we’re expected to STAY there, even if we don’t always agree with “our” side, while we close ourselves off to anyone not on our side.
How do YOU manage the firehose of content coming at you? Do you find you can pick sides and stay there? Do you consider yourself on the “Right” or the “Left”? Do you hang out somewhere left of middle, or right of it?
Most people – statistically – are exactly that: nearer to the middle. You wouldn’t think that based on what the media shows us daily. It’s one or the other, and “never the twain shall meet”.
One of the more nefarious things that this kind of ethos creates is the idea that somewhere in their thinking, the “other side”, filled with those “other” people, is lacking in human decency.
Most people, most of the time, aren’t making “stupid” decisions, as the world of media would have us believe. In fact most people, most of the time, are making decisions on where to stand based on a combination of factors unique to them. Some of it is based on a core set of beliefs formed via life experience, upbringing, etc.
People also decide where they stand based on personal study and research. While it might not be a university-degree level of education, the idea that folks that don’t agree with us are “ignorant”, or “stupid” is not an idea based in reality.
We’re ALL a combination of LOTS of factors, and when we isolate people based on our perception of what “side” they’re on, we demonstrate a lack of open-mindedness. Instead of exercising the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it, we close our minds down to ANY other possibility. That renders us unable to take the true measure of a person as an individual.
“The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” ― Ayn Rand.
In this day and age we can EASILY get caught up in ideological group-think. The problem lies when we start to think those others are not us. Not like us. Different. We’re not that different in reality. From country to country all across the world it’s clear that people want the same things:
We ALL want to be free. We want to be free to make our own choices in life. From what to put our energy towards, to what to put into our bodies, to how we raise our children, to how we see our own existence and our place on this beautiful planet.
We ALL want to be loved. We want to belong, to give and to receive friendship, and to have meaningful relationships.
These aspirations aren’t exclusive to any “side”. Yet when we do “pick a side” and stay there, our ideologies lead us to believe they are. Rather than being willing to keep an open and curious mind, to listen and learn something new, we get caught up in “othering”.
Othering is how one group of people are able to marginalize and group-hate on another group of people. The “other” is an easy, lazy out. Why? Because it’s easier to point at, and to make fun of, and to make wrong an “other”. Much easier than it is to make wrong “our own”. This leads entire groups of people to become illogical, irrational, and to mob.
The fact that large groups of people agree only bolsters our idea that we’re on the “right side”. Just because a whole lot of people agree on a thing, doesn’t make it right. History can teach us that.
A Lack of Open-Mindedness, and How it can affect Us.
It’s part of being human – “othering”. It’s also territorial, and geographically-based. I got to experience it as a child growing up bi-racial. Being an “other” in the land where I grew up meant I was often seen by people that didn’t know me as inherently bad, stupid, and perhaps even violent. I was the kid followed around in stores, in case I stole something. Even when I was a teenager and worked a GOOD job and dressed well! That didn’t matter, the only thing that mattered was that I fit the “other” category, therefore all ideology about my “other” group was true when it came to me too.
Once I left the geographic area where being ME was “wrong”, I arrived in a new land where being ME was “right”. Nothing about ME changed of course. I was the same person I’d been the day before I got on that plane. The group-think, the ideology, the perception of me is what changed, and where there were NO doors in my homeland, doors magically opened wherever I went in the new land! It was insane how quickly it all changed, and it helped me to see at a very young age, the effects of taking “sides” and “othering” people can have.
We must continually practice being Open-Minded!
I like A LOT of things about the left, and I ALSO like a lot of things about the right. I don’t stand on one side or the other, like most people I’m somewhere in the middle. I want ALL people to be free, especially to think and speak. I want ALL people to have the experience that their own lives dictate they should have. The world is vast and filled with immeasurable things to learn, and we can’t do that in a vacuum. When people are free to experience their own consciousness – and its evolution – we ALL benefit. Especially when we let them share that evolution with us.
Despite the fact that we’re being fire-hosed with content these days, someone else’s experience doesn’t have to be our experience. It doesn’t have to fit our ideals for it to still be valid, and we don’t need to shut it down if it doesn’t fit. Open-mindedness isn’t the same as agreeableness.
Nothing in the Universe is stagnant, including people. You can see in Nature that evolution is the Order of the Day. Everything in nature entertains the new, the better, the improved version. Old versions die, and new ones are born. Nature does this naturally, without force. We can always learn from how the Universe does things!
Hands Off that Trigger (aka Keyboard!)
Like most of you, I often see things on social media that I 100% do NOT agree with, sometimes vehemently so! I never allow myself to deny that person their perspective though. It’s not for ME to know the inner workings of another human being, or to call them “ignorant” or “stupid” for not taking the same stance as me.
What they’ve been through, what they’ve seen in their life experience, what they’ve studied – we have NO clue. Even when we believe someone is 100% wrong in their assumption we can ALSO know that we’re all evolving. We’re ALL still learning. We can assist in the evolutionary process by providing our own perspective in our own way (aka on our own pages!), while also staying open-minded enough to listen to and read others’ perspectives as well. We might even learn something we didn’t know, an angle we never thought about, and that is OUR evolution.
I often use this analogy:
When I’m driving down the street and I see a house painted a color I think is ghastly, I just keep driving. I NEVER think “I should get out and go tell this person how awful that color is!” or “Ugh! They need to change that so I don’t have to drive past and see it!”. Of course no one actually does that when they’re driving. Not anyone reasonable anyway.
The polarization of “sides” that’s being pushed on the public is like this: You see a house painted a color you don’t like, you stop the car, get out and literally take a dump in the front yard in protest. You don’t just knock on the door and tell them their choices are wrong.
Sometimes a LARGE number of other drivers will get out and cheer you on! They might even sign a petition asking the authorities to evict the owner and bulldoze the house, because they have to drive that public road too! They don’t want to see that! It’s simply not acceptable to the collective gathered in the street, and therefore it must go.
This is the essence of Cancel Culture – which is really just a modern day digital euphemism for Mob-Mentality.
Ideological group-think is a very real danger to freedom – for everyone. Not just some of the time, but all of the time. Who gets to be the arbiter of what is right? If we’re each a summation of our characteristics, upbringing, habits, beliefs and culture, who can truly judge a group and be correct about the individuals within?
When we clan up and become “tribal” in this way, it doesn’t matter how many others are part of that tribe. It still becomes a mob. History tells us that mobs of humans, especially when armed with pitchforks (in this case keyboards) can really do a lot of damage they wouldn’t otherwise do on their own.
In this analogy, as in the real world, the BEST thing I think we can do, for our own mental health and that of our fellow man, is to KEEP DRIVING. Trust that good is always trying to break through, because that’s how the universe works. It improves when WE do better. Not when we tear an “other” down.
Open-mindedness also allows for Change
I’ve changed a lot over the years. I bet YOU have as well! We often hold other people in the same place they were years ago, while thinking “Oh I’m SO not the person I used to be”. We really do ourselves and others a service by affording them the same gift. They’re probably NOT the same person they used to be, and they probably won’t always be the person you see now.
If you’re able to stay open-minded, you’ll find it easier to look back on your younger self and see – with an open mind – how YOU formed your opinions and what changed those opinions over time. Perhaps you can offer that same grace to people in your life that don’t think like you do right now. Maybe they’re in a constant state of evolution too….
Most people, most of the time, are doing their best with what they have. If you want them to do better, the best thing you can do is to lead by example. Be the change you want to see in the world as they say.
That’s a revolutionary act, and this world could use all the revolutionaries it can get.
If we commit to following our own individual hearts, rather than the ideology of any group we might identify with, we won’t always be popular, but we WILL always be living our own truth. Anything else is not truly ours.
Be courageous! Keep your mind open and be willing to entertain a thought without thinking that means you’re accepting it. You never know where your open mind might lead, and life is meant to be an adventure!
To our continual evolution and growth, side by side.
One of the BEST examples of someone who practices keeping their mind open – and doing so VERY publicly – is Joe Rogan. I’ve been listening to his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience for about 5 years now. Literally hundreds of hours of interviews have played through my car speakers as I’ve driven across the world. While I don’t always agree with what his guests have to say, Joe demonstrates an ability to entertain MANY different ideas he doesn’t always agree with. It’s a really good example of real-time, long-form conversation that is civil and respectful, regardless of “sides”. The result is the #1 Podcast in the world, for a reason. The people in the studio AND the people listening almost always walk away having evolved as a result of listening.
I highly recommend scrolling through the JRE archives on Spotify and clicking around in there. You’ll find people from all walks of life but the message is often the same. We yearn for connection rather than separation, and we’re always greater together than the sum of our parts.