“Some minds are like Pullman berths at noon—made up and closed.” (Harry & Joan Mier) as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack felt the need to explain what a Pullman berth is for those too young to remember sleeper cars on trains. I guess I do, too. Think of it as tiny little camper bulk bed on a train. Pullman cars and berths were quite popular when trains were the main way to get across the country and it took several days to do so. It’s a quaint concept, sort of like snail mail is these days, too.
But the idea behind Jack’s use of the quote was to highlight, especially in this political season, the dangers of having a closed mind, one that is already made up about things and which refuses to entertain compromise. I’ve written about that topic here before, especially in the political setting. Jack went on to write – But you do know about people who are closed-minded. That’s one of the problems with today’s world…people who will not consider other points of view and come to a compromise. It’s as if compromising means losing.
I’ve also written in the past about the zero-sum mentality that says that the only way that I can win is if the other person loses. I much prefer finding a win-win solution in life, where no one has to lose. Sometimes it is difficult for a person who has to open their mind to compromise not to see that as a loss. That is a person too ridged in their beliefs to ever really be happy, because the world around them will seldom be in lock-step with their beliefs.
Another short saying by George Bernard Shaw seems to apply here, too –
There is nothing more dangerous than the conscience of a bigot. I think I would modify Shaw’s quote a bit to better fit here by stating it this way – There is nothing more dangerous than the conscience of a zealot. The definition of a zealot, if you Google it, is – a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals. These days many of the zealot type people tend to be politicians, but you can run into them anywhere, even in sports (the so-called “super-fans”).
Of course there are things all around us to which we may have a closed mind, without even thinking about it; or maybe we are just ignorant about some things, and thus are ambivalent; which some may take to be a sign of a closed mind. There are many things that I just don’t encounter enough or think about enough to have formed any opinion at all. It’s not that I’m for or against anything; it’s that I don’t yet care one way or the other. Sometimes that’s a good thing, because too many people try to make you line up behind what they see as the only two alternative positions – for or against. You seldom see the “I don’t care” choice on surveys; although “I don’t know” often shows up in survey results. Sometimes you just scratch your head and ask, “how can they not know about that?” I suppose a blank mind is better than a bigoted mind most of the time. At least that person is still open on the topic.
I find comfort in the fact that I don’t know all of the answers. I still have questions. I still have room to compromise. I don’t necessarily agree with the opinions that some politicians are expressing, but they certainly have the right to make all of the noise that they want (just don’t call me during the dinner house with one of your surveys, please).
A corollary to having an open mind about things is having the ability to change one’s mind. Often an opinion that we might carry for years will change if e acquire additional knowledge on the topic. Sometimes the “conventional wisdom” that we have bought into proves to be wrong or at least based upon inaccurate information. I’ve used this quote that is also by George Bernard Shaw before, but it fits well here – “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Hopefully you are ready to make progress when it makes sense to change your mind on something. Do you have a mind that is open to new things, new ideas and new beliefs today?