An open mind is good thing – most of the time. New ideas, new experience, increased knowledge, personal and professional growth, better relationships and an overall positive approach to life are just a few of the benefits of having an open mind. However, there are some pitfalls. Like an open window or an open door in which bugs can enter the home, an open mind is susceptible to litter, junk, lies and deceptions, false information and misdirection. The open mind, like an open window, needs a screen to keep the bugs out. The mental screen is called “discrimination.” It is an attribute everyone has. Discrimination is the capacity to see differences. Like any tool, discrimination can be used wisely or foolishly, for good or for bad. Unless we want our open mind filled with all kinds of non-sense, we must learn to differentiate between what is of genuine value and what is junk. You might say that our discriminative capacity is like an email spam filter. We can set the parameters to filter out the junk and let in the useful information. Generally, what is important to us is considered useful and gets through. What is important to you? An open mind, with a screen to prevent the bugs from entering, or a spam filter to block the junk, is a wonderful thing.
The open mind is also susceptible to a lack of conviction. Too many conflicting ideas can enter an open mind and cause indecision. It is necessary now and then to close the mind, disallow any more input, make a decision and act. Perhaps more important than having an open mind is having a mind that is capable of being open – or closed. We need a mind with hinges – well lubricated and in good working order. The hinges of our mind is our ability to decide. We can decide to accept or reject information. We can decide to consider a point of view or not. We can decide to open or close the window. A home would become cold and drafty if the doors and windows could not be closed now and then. But, it would be awfully stuffy if they could not be opened. We simply decide to open or close the window – or the mind. But, our decision must be made from intelligence and reason, not emotional reactions. An emotionally reactive person would likely open the doors and windows during a blizzard – or close the mind to beneficial information.It’s the mind that remains closed that prevents creative growth.
It’s the closed mind that stated in the late 1870’s that the telephone had too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a communication device or in the early 1970’s that no one would ever want a computer in their home. Charles Duell, the Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents in 1899 said “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” In 1981, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, said “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” Even the most visionary person may close their mind to possibilities. Perhaps there is a bit more effort in keeping the mind open, just as smiling requires a little more muscle movement. But, the results of a smile are so often rewarding – and the fruits of an open mind can be very enriching. Despite the predictions of “experts” quoted above, it appears the mind will strive to be open and will move forward into new experiences hitherto thought unavailable or unreachable.
Ultimately, the cons of an open mind can be dealt with and the pros of an open mind are too important to neglect. As Charles Kettering, the American engineer and inventor said, “Where there is an open mind, there will be a frontier.” Living as we do on the verge of global catastrophes, we need a frontier. We need a vision of a better future, and a path towards that future. For that, we will need an open mind.