Tag Archives: open-mindedness

Close-Mindedness, Open-Mindedness, and Meta-Systemic Thinking

Seen on a bumper sticker on the way home this evening:

bq. “The mind is like a parachute-It only works when it is open.”

I find it interesting that the general assumption is that a person is either open-minded or close-minded. It’s like you have to pick which one you want to be, and it had better not be close-minded (according to the edicts of the culture-at-large). For those who consider themselves open-minded, it’s the only way to view to the world. Open-mindedness is a breath of fresh air, allowing all men to be at peace with another because they can now accept one another without prejudice because all beliefs, all values, and all worldviews are equally correct, because there is no such thing as being right (or at least not 100% right) about anything, because it is the height of arrogance to ever propose to your fellow man that his beliefs might be in error or flawed in the slightest. The only blight upon this system are those they consider to be close-minded (a condition considered almost on a level with pedophilia, it seems), those who believe that their way is the only way, those who feel that they have no need for further analysis of their beliefs and worldviews.

Strangely enough, neither position recognizes, let alone acknowledges, the inconsistencies of their own stances. The ‘open-minded’ individual is tolerant of everything but the close-minded individual, making the open-minded individual close-minded in his very open-mindedness. The ‘close-minded’ individual is so self-assured of his correctness, of his ‘rightness’, that he is completely unwilling to acknowledge the idea that he may be mistaken in his logic or in his
conclusions and is thus unable to admit that the open-minded individual with whom he has been conversing may have a valid point. Both extremes are so confident and comfortable in their self-chosen philosophical stances that they rotely discard the entirety of the other’s arguments out of hand because it is seen as deriving from a philosophy which is completely counter to their own. Sadly, as a result, many great trues and compromises are lost to this practice, and
many great and wise men are reduced to foolishness and idiocy.

What both the open-minded individual and the close-minded individual seem to not understand is that their philosophical approaches are not simply an either/or choice but rather are two ends of a continuum. The continuum looks something like this:

Close-minded ————————– Open-minded

Every man, woman, and child alive fits somewhere along this line, and few populate the furthest extremes. Few people (if any) are so open-minded that they are willing to embrace any and every philosophy arbitrarily. And few (if any) are so close-minded that they reject every single philosophy that is not their own. Instead, everyone is open-minded about some things and close-minded about others.

I would propose that a specific mid-point be assigned to the above continuum.

Close-minded ————- Meta-System ————- Open-minded

This is my conceptualization of meta-systemic thinking. The prefix meta in this case means “beyond; transcending; more comprehensive; at a higher state of development.” When applied to thinking systems, meta opens up a whole new world of possibilities. It combines the best of close-minded and open-minded thinking while discarding the worst of both. Meta-systemic thinking would be known, in more familiar terms, as critical thinking, but in calling it meta-systemic thinking, certain implications and techniques are found that the definition of ‘critical thinking’ has lost (or never had).

Meta-systemic thinking approaches every philosophy and every worldview with a fresh eye, critiquing, anyalzing, breaking down, identifying assumptions, naming presuppositions, ferreting out flaws, and praising strengths. Meta-systemic thinking collates all that which is worth keeping and discards all that which is not. Meta-systemic thinking is continually reshaping the individual, being just open-minded enough to accept the possibility that a personal conclusion
or bit of logic may be flawed and in being willing to correct that flaw, even in accepting a bit of truth from a philosophy traditionally viewed as being wholly incorrect. It is also just close-minded enough to be willing to settle down to a firm stance once the individual believes that all available information has been gathered and processed and the chaff discarded. It is something of a tight-rope to walk, constantly struggling to balance on the edge of correctness while admitting the flaw of human error. Meta-systemic thinking acknowledges the existence of absolute truth and that that truth can be known by men. Meta-systemic thinking is an ongoing process, lifelong and continual, but overall it is a healthier and more robust approach to critical thought.

What I find so amazing is how few individuals are unwilling or unable to engage in meta-systemic thought, allowing instead personal hubris to interfere. Many a productive discussion has been derailed by the refusal to critically listen and think about the opposing argument and adjust accordingly. If only more people were willing to use their minds, rather than their feelings, to engage the world, we might find ourselves in a better place.

Devil’s Advocate

I have this ‘annoying’ little habit of always playing devil’s advocate…. well, maybe not always, but I do it quite often. Whenever someone takes one position in a conversation, I will frequently argue for the other side (fair representation, anyone?). Why do I do this, you ask? Good question, and I’m glad you asked that one. It’s not to be irksome, believe me, at least not intentionally (I suppose there could be some Freudian logic to it, somewhere, buried down deep, but I suspect not). Mostly, I think I do it in order to make sure that all aspects of the topicslashissue gets covered. Pull out the salient details. Avoid the groupthink effect and the like. Remove the blinders from ones eyes and open up the conversation to more possibilities. (And no, this is NOT necessarily being open-minded. Just covering all the bases. Because open minds tend to stay open (BAD!), and eventually I settle down on one position and stay there. Definitely ‘close-minded’ and ‘narrow.’ But also Biblical, I believe, at least to an extent. But that’s a topic for another post on another day.) I just like to make sure that everyone has thought of as many of the possibilities and explanations as possible. Experience empathy. Avoid judgmentalism.

And as a Christian, I believe it is my responsibility to encourage others to think more globally, and hence, more Christly. More compassionately, with love and grace. So consider this: consider that you may actually be wrong on a stance long enough to consider the issue more thoroughly. Challenge the status quo, and don’t take your position on an issue for granted, just because you have thought this way your whole life and so has your family.

Open Mind

It’s interesting to me that the word ‘open-minded’ has been paired with ‘rational’ and ‘pragmatic’ in the second frame of this comic strip. The reason for this is that ‘open-minded’ and ‘rational’ are actually on opposite ends of the continuum from one another. The word ‘open-minded’ is a product of our post-modern culture, where to settle into one opinion on a topic is to be considered ‘narrow’ and ‘close-minded’ and ‘intolerant.’ ‘Rational,’ on the other hand, is a remnant of modernism, where facts can be sifted through the sieve of the mind and truth discovered. Absolute truth. ‘Open-minded’ lends itself to relative truth or NO truth; ‘rational’ lends itself to the discovery of a single, absolute truth. So, to find these two words paired in the same sentence as complementary to one another is something I find VERY interesting…..