8.12.2015

What Opened My Mind

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A common rant of mine in this space is the importance of keeping an open mind.  There are two (or more) sides to every story, and even if one side is absolutely wrong it is useful to keep a connection to it.  Not everyone agrees with this sentiment but it is something I believe strongly for myself and for society.

Where did this sentiment come from?  Five somewhat overlapping influences, in no particular order:

(1) It is said that INTJ's (my Myers-Briggs personality type) tend to view the world in a detached sort of way, kind of like a chess-master surveying the chessboard.  In this sense, arguments are not unlike chess moves, which are pored over and played out without the need for ownership of any of them.  So it is less emotionally fraught to step through a line of thinking and look for the logic and good in it without feeling dirty or waffly.


(2) I did a lot of what was called Oxford Debate in high school, which is basically two-on-two debate in which half the time you are on the affirmative side and the other half the negative side.  This was invaluable training in being able to craft an argument for one day and then pursue with equal vehemence the exact opposite argument the next day.

(3) My economics training underscores the importance of fairly weighing both sides of an argument and of following through on both intended and unintended consequences.  The old saw about longing for a one-armed economist (because of tiring of us saying "on the one hand, on the other hand") has a lot of truth to it.

(4) I came to my Christian faith in my teen years rather than growing up in it, and have subsequently sought to intentionally be in places where Christianity is sparse so as to be an influence for good in those places.  This is an infiltration of sorts, which I believe to be how Jesus functioned, and which I think requires a commitment to "walking a mile" in others' shoes. 

(5) We started with hard-wired personality type, and we will end with such.  I like being a contrarian.  While many people seem to revel in shedding friends who choose to have and voice different ideological positions, I prefer to collect people and perspectives that are contrary to mine.  I grow when I learn more from people who disagree with me, and I enjoy extracting whatever good is in those viewpoints so I can add color to conversations with people who do agree with me.  I am also deathly afraid of "group-think," which is to say that when I am with others who think like me, I am fearful that we have a collective blind spot, and I hate the possibility of being ignorant or incomplete in my thinking.

I'm sure there are other influences but those are the five I can think of right now. 
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