The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust. The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him. Only then, and not till then, will he have a glimpse of truth-Mahatma Gandhi, The Story Of My Experiments With Truth
It is a very rare balancing act to wake up everyday, look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you know close to nothing about the world you live in. It is also true that the words ‘I dont know’ are the beginning of a personal journey to seek the ultimate authority — the truth.
Even so, how can you wake up every morning and accomplish your life goals with confidence if you believe what you know about the world is very little. Personally, I have struggled to maintain that balance. What can help you is the fact that your life is a journey to seek the truth. While I am very far from having an open mind, I have started walking on the path to seek the truth. This article is meant to share my experiences with that struggle in the hope that you too can develop an open mind.
Lately, I have become tired of listening to a ceaseless cacophony of debates from friends that subscribe to opposite view points in politics and in life in general. Then, there are people like me in the middle who are so confused that they spend their lives trying to seek the truth. Such people are called indecisive and a threat to effective functioning of a democracy. Don’t get me wrong — I vote like most other people because stasis is not an answer to a world moving ahead. Similarly, for a CEO running a business, she has to take a decision because confusion will lead the business to ruin. The decision is taken by balancing and ultimately choosing one but considering both points of view.
However, I have been trying to tell both sides in the argument which are nothing but two different (not wrong or right just different) ways of looking at the same world that the worst thing to do is argue by assuming you know everything. Confidence without clarity has wreaked havoc on the world for centuries. If only they could step into someone else’s version of the truth, they would complete their own picture of the world. It’s a very profound but common place dilemma. What I write below may or may not help you but I sincerely hope it does.
The Definition Of Open Mindedness
As per Wikipedia, Open-mindedness is receptiveness to new ideas. Open-mindedness relates to the way in which people approach the views and knowledge of others, and in the words of Dean Tjosvold “incorporate the beliefs that others should be free to express their views and that the value of others’ knowledge should be recognized.”Jason Baehr defines an open-minded person as being one who “characteristically moves beyond or temporarily sets aside his own doxastic commitments in order to give a fair and impartial hearing to the intellectual opposition”.
In ancient Jain teachings, there are three principle tenets of leading a good life. These are Anekantavada (plurality of thought), Ahimsa (non violence towards all living beings) and Aparigraha (gathering material possessions only to the extent needed and no more ie avoiding overconsumption)
Plurality of thought is respect for all world views. It is easy to say I am open minded but in reality it is very hard for us to accept very different points of view. Thus, open mindedness begins by thinking the other point of view may be right. Once you begin to understand the other point of view, you can design solutions that benefit both and with mutual consent thereby avoiding violence. The other option is to agree to disagree but not burn the bridge.
The concept of Aparigraha is the solution to the addiction problem. The problem isn’t with Facebook, Twitter, Social Media or other vices we are addicted to. The problem is our own self regulation. For example, even if we over-consume certain types of food, we are opening up our body to chronic ailments. The idea is to consume only what is needed and no more. It takes a very open mind to realize that the problem is not big business or vices-it is almost impossible to completely wipe them out. What we can do is reframe the debate around self regulation. It’s not the thing itself rather it’s the dosage. If society achieves a healthy level of self regulation, the demand for the addiction economy’s products will subside on its own. Each of us have to decide what that balance is and avoid over indulgence.
Is Fake Media Much Brouhaha About Nothing?
Fake news is just a symptom of a deeper malaise. The harder question we need to ask ourselves is this: is the fourth estate completely compromised. Today, that answer is not clear cut. While perverse incentives which are mostly economic in nature drive media outlets to peddle titillating half truths or falsehoods, it is also true that the world Of media has a large population of people who risk their lives to report the truth. Many such reporters go on to earn the Pulitzer. It is very unfair and an oversimplification to say that the entire fourth estate is compromised when most of us use those very same outlets for our version of the truths. Likewise, it is foolhardy to believe everything the media says.
My limited point is this : for the seeker of truth, the path does not change. He/she has to do his/her own due diligence to dig out the truth to the best of his/her ability.
An issue may not just be the tip of the iceberg. In other words, it may not be as simple as reported. There could be many layers and viewpoints that need to be delved into to seek the truth. Likewise, a personality reported as a hero may actually be a villain in real life only if we peel back the onion. The reality of life is this : there are no good or bad people. Given the right situation, a good person may become bad and vice verse. All of us oscillate on a spectrum between the good and the bad. Thus, the answer is not binary but quantum. We have to dig much deeper and harder to find the truth. Therefore, the next time you take a stand, think hard about the level of work you have done to come to a conclusion. The answer many times is : not enough. If so, dig deeper. The most dangerous thing to possess is confidence without access to the truth.
I realize some readers are thinking there is nothing new that I shared with the world by writing this story. My intention behind documenting my findings is to nudge you to dig deeper every time and settle for nothing but the truth. It is also true that most of life’s important decisions are gut decisions. For example, when it comes to voting in an election or choosing a strategy in business, all of these are choices that need to be made in ambiguity. However, the effort is what makes all the difference.
The reality also is that the most profound truths are also very simple. As Mahatma Gandhi once said :
I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could.
Think about it. Every problem plaguing society ie sexism, sexual abuse, racism, casteism, child abuse, wealth inequality are nothing new. The classic struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed is as old as the Stone Age. Civilization and technology have neutralized some of the power of the oppressor by providing a level playing field but the debate rages on. I remain sanguine in that progress will be made with every passing generation.
Once again, for the seeker of the truth, he has his work cut out. Only in the truth lies the answer to all these problems. Dig deeper.
It is not just the end but also the means to that end that matters
The answer to becoming open minded is simple : to settle for nothing but the truth, unequivocally. However, the path to reach the truth is where all problems lie-for the seeker of truth has to demolish his ego to a state finer than dust.
First, an unequivocal pursuit of truth will not allow you to sleep. You will have more questions that will keep hounding you until you find answers for them. Therefore keep asking questions and don’t settle until you find the answers. The journey to an open mind begins with right questions. The incredibly difficult process of finding answers to all questions is a very personal journey but it will move you along the way to becoming more open minded.
Second, everyone has a different view of the world that is not better or worse. That world view is simply incomparable. The trick is to take their best behaviors to help you find the truth. In doing so, you become the sum of the best parts.
Thirdly, great teachers or gurus are invaluable and they are spread everywhere. However, even teachers will only teach you when your intellect doesn’t serve a narrow identity. If you go to a teacher thinking you know everything, the teacher has no incentive to teach you. In the words of the rapper Coolio, they will say ‘C U When U Get There’. Getting there needs an ego finer than dust.
Lastly, listening to people’s stories, empathizing with them to truly understand their point of view is a game of patience. Don’t expect very fast results.
To sum up, the above provides you with a framework to start to become open minded. The answer is simple — to become truly open minded, always make truth the final authority. However, nobody said the journey is easy. I struggle with it every day. Two steps ahead, one back.