Do you ever ask yourself questions like “Why?” and “What if?”
Do you enjoy reading and discovering diverse viewpoints, especially those to which you have not been exposed?
I do. Often. I love to explore options, delve into ideas, and pursue opportunities, if only in my mind.
What I discover when I do this is that there are perspectives and thoughts beyond those which I have previously known. These things stretch me. They enable me to better understand what others think and feel. They provide for me an opportunity to go beyond what I already know and hopefully better myself, my methods for doing things, and perhaps my world.
How many people are actually like this?
I’m not sure, but it seems to me that people who want to be aware of things outside of their personal circle of the known are quite rare. I wish that were not the case, but I’m convinced that it is. In other words, I am either wonderfully unique or exceptionally weird, depending on your personal perspective.
Most of the time we as a human species will listen to friends or radio talk shows, read newspapers and web sites, and watch television programs which reinforce the opinions we already have. Rarely will we endure, much less consider the opinions of “those others” with whom we disagree.
People who are willing to do so are scoffed as being “so open minded their brains leaked out” or as people who “think instead of act.” I disagree. I think people who are willing to listen to and truly consider viewpoints with which they may not agree are healthy. They certainly tend to make better decisions, decisions which benefit a wider set of people in more ways, and they usually show great deference and respect to others, which in and of itself is a rare gift.
What got me thinking about this today was a web page I stumbled across with an article by Steven Dutch from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in which he asks the question Why is there Anti-Intellectualism? and explores a possibile answer that I find both plausible and kind of sad. I hope you read it, it’s worth the time and effort, because he says things I haven’t heard elsewhere, at least not in the same way.
The bottom line is that we tend to default to an attitude of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” coupled with an innate distrust of what we do not know or understand, with a bit of “I need an answer that I understand” mixed in. We are not good with ambiguity, with not knowing, and listening to or seeking out ideas we have never had before involves getting past that discomfort and learning to be comfortable with not completely understanding something while exploring the options.