A fair number of us – particularly those who keep track of developments in science – perceive ourselves as open-minded. But how often do we assess this quality in ourselves with any degree of rigor? What does it feel like to be open? What does it look like?
A shark needs water to be anything like a shark. A human seems to need a story. If there is no story, it seems, there is no life. How many of us carry around a story about the state of the world, the state of our culture, the need for this or that sort of rescue? How many of us carry around a belief in decline, perceiving our ideas to be an antidote, if only they catch on before the ultimate demise?
How many of us are subjected to criticism and simply listen, absorb, let things lie in that state, where an unwelcome idea is allowed to inhabit the communicative space?
How many of us hear an idea that appears to represent the opposite of our current hypothesis, and listen, openly, to the evidence in its favor?
How many of us view our own brains as cluttered with false memories, incorrect ideas, volatile impulsivity, fanciful beliefs?
How many of us examine the origin of our belief that the world should be different than it is? What if the impetus is a simple mechanism, divorced in every meaningful way from the belief thereby engendered? We may feel otherwise, but how do we know? If we consider things for a moment, it appears fairly clear that we cannot possibly possess sufficient information to determine whether the world should be any different than it is. Yet we are in no small measure governed by such impulses, and we bring all of our intellectual paraphernalia to their aid.
We perhaps will never know the feeling of an open mind. In striving to achieve it, however, we must consider that is we who have got things wrong. We may be the obstacle. If we are the dumbass, it certainly stands to reason, we would not know it.
In Shakespeare’s King Lear, it is the king who acts rashly, and the fool who seems to best intuit his environs. Happiness may derive, in no small measure, from remaining open to the possibility that one may be, in the end, the fool.