When I was a baby I had an obsession with doors being opened and shut. I could sit with one of my parents or any other unlucky bystander for extended periods of time and request that the door’s function be displayed to me again and again. From the perspective of my young mind the door’s function was to entertain me, not to block the cold or keep out intruders. Older people’s function was to do my bidding until I bored of them.
This simplistic perspective is understandable and even expected from a small child. Repetition and speculation are the tools of developing brains.
Unfortunately, they’re also the banes of hard-headed thirtysomething know-it-alls.
You’d think I would have outgrown the narrow-mindedness of youth. Well, I’m in the process. A continuous, frustrating process. An example of this process takes the form of a humble cookie sheet. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Meg and I have cats now. Two of them. Given that their primary concern seems to be eating everything I possess, my hands and arms included, I’m not sure why we have them. They can be entertaining, I guess. And they’re more patient cuddlers for my dear wife than am I. But my narrow mind has difficulty seeing as much purpose in cats as in dogs. And their narrow eyes seem to see right through me. It’s an uneasy truce and a story for another time.
Not too long ago the cats added garbage to their list of insatiable desires. Meg and I are possessed of a lidless garbage can and I am loathe to replace it and admit that my intelligence isn’t enough to overcome a baby cat.
I decided covering the can with a cookie sheet was the best option. So I did. I weighted it down and it was a satisfactory answer to our dilemma. However, I always replaced the cookie sheet facing downwards. This caused awkward gaps, relatively high difficulty in removing the sheet, and some bowing because of the weight.
After a few days Meg flipped the cookie sheet over and thereby rocked my world for the umpteenth time.
It had NEVER occurred to me to flip the sheet despite the seemingly obvious flaws in my method. As far as I was concerned, that was the one and only way of ever using my impromptu lid. The lid had one function and it was accomplishing the function well enough for me.
I guess there’s something to be said for the fact that I quickly accepted that Meg’s way was better. But I never would have sought out her input or a better way. I was satisfied and proud of myself and willing to overlook my design’s limitations.
Open lid, close lid. Open lid, close lid.
I wish I could say that my narrow perspectives ended there, but they don’t. Most things still have a very set function in my mind. Sadly, so do many people
Not only that, but I have a wickedly hard time accepting ideas from people I’m not already inclined to respect or agree with. Sure, I’m “open minded” and “tolerant” when challenged by people who have the exact same values as I and who look like me. I can even consider difficult topics...as long as I’m prompted by comfortable sources.
Simply put, this makes me a simpleton. Thoughtfulness isn’t qualified by one’s ability to think about the same things in the same ways forever. Open-mindedness isn’t best represented by the ideals we’re able to consider, but from whom we’re able to accept them.
So I’m in the process of becoming thoughtful and open-minded during a time in our country when it may be more important than ever. I’m trying not to be a hater of knowledge or a mocker of uncomfortable things. An active pursuit of external thought is necessary for a healthy interaction with the world. A lot of difficult people are worth listening to.
I wish I was further along in my process. Stakes in the real world are much higher than garbage stank and bent cookie sheets. And the people from whom I must choose to receive are generally much less gracious and lovely than my wife.
But as long as I try to ignore baby Brent and keep from pressing people and thoughts instantly into my own function-molds, there’s hope and growth.
Open door...open mind.