Yesterday whilst looking for a coat–just a nice, plain coat, button-up or zippered, a couple of pockets–I was talking to my good pal DFJ3. I wanted a nice, plain coat, not too long, not too short, not too heavy or light. We talked about whether certain church folk would–hold on, I mean not fancy at all; no suede, no epaulettes. Not one with buttons on top of the zipper, or worse, a double-zipper system with an internal and an external zipper. No zippered pockets on the sleeves, no obnoxious logo placement. I must’ve gone to four or five places and couldn’t find one decent coat that fit. May have to go name-brand generic and head over to Wal-Mart or Target.
So I was talking to DFJ3 and we talked about all kinds of fun stuff, such as whether certain church folk he knows would be more agitated by his belief that young earth creationism should not be taught in science classes (shocking, I know), or by his opposition to dispensational premillennialism. I’m not a church-goer, but I guessed the latter, knowing how much some folks love that Left Behind series. He said it depended on the audience.
Anyhow, at one point he mentioned that he and his girlfriend, a professor, started to have a debate but then she cut it off. When he asked why, she told him that he was a closed-minded person because “you always have to be right.” He disagreed– which may have been the wrong move. His response, which I am both proud and deeply disturbed to say that I predicted almost verbatim, was, “I do always have to be right, and that’s why I’m open-minded.”
These days, it seems (I haven’t run a survey so I can’t prove it) that we usually use the term “closed-minded” to criticize those who disagree with us. It’s a term that’s on the verge of becoming a thoughtless epithet instead of a meaningful description, much like “unfair” is used to describe situations we don’t like.
I try to be a little more precise with language than that. In my book, “open-minded” means I’ll carefully consider your beliefs. Like DFJ3, I will do this because I want to be right about everything; I accept the possibility (however remote) that I might not be right about everything; and I am willing to change my beliefs so that I will be even righter than ever before. But please note that I used the words “carefully consider your beliefs” and not “automatically accept your beliefs just to make you feel better.” That won’t happen unless we’re dating or married; then I’ll cave strategically.
If it turns out that my beliefs are more true, more correct, more provable than yours, if my beliefs explain or predict reality better than yours do, then after careful consideration, I’m throwing your beliefs out. Sorry. In fact, if your beliefs involve my area of expertise, I probably already give those beliefs careful consideration on a regular basis, and have a pretty good idea of which ones have merit and which ones don’t. There’s a risk you’re going to get shut down real fast.
But here’s the larger point: neither the inadequacy of your beliefs nor your inability to change my mind makes me “closed-minded.” Hopefully you will reciprocate by being “open-minded,” i.e., carefully considering my beliefs and changing yours if truth, fact, reality, and your own pursuit of rightness compel you to.
Happily, DFJ3’s girlfriend saw his point and agreed. Crisis averted.
Still no coat.
The new season began today. We played two men down the first half and fell behind 4-0. Then two more players showed up–we had a full side for the first time since August! We still lost, 4-1, but were ecstatic at having seven players on the field. Well, maybe not ecstatic, that’s overstating it, but pretty damned happy.