9.22.2015

Context is Everything

I've written often about the importance of having an open mind, which is to say truly seeking to understand someone else's perspective, rather than just absorb their points from your own perspective.  Everyone says they have an open mind but really getting into someone's shoes is hard work, so unsurprisingly we often choose instead to feed on views that support our own.  

You know what else is hard work?  True diversity.  A lot of people pay lip service to diversity but then don't actually implement it in their lives.  Or it is assumed that token diversity is diversity; I still cringe when I hear phrases like "check the box" or "diversity hire."   Or it is forgotten that true diversity means not just the co-existence of different perspectives but the honoring of those different perspectives by all.  True diversity takes effort, and that effort must be motivated by an appreciation of the payoff of diversity, which is that a narrower worldview is improved by the inclusion of many worldviews, each given their right due and all learning from all.  And so it turns out that diversity depends on and is fueled by a commitment to keep a truly open mind.

You know what else is hard work?  Understanding history.  Whether it is past eras or religious texts, all too often we interpret from our modern perspectives rather than taking time to learn what words and actions would've meant during their contemporary period.  How many times have you heard both lovers and haters of the Bible take passages completely out of context to prove their already set opinion, rather than reading with an open heart and an inquisitive spirit?  How many times have you heard friends and presidential candidates purport to know what our Founding Fathers believed, only to be oblivious to the context in which they lived and the past strands of philosophers and sages upon which their opinions were formed?  Why else would we do such things except that we've already made up our minds about something, and refuse to let words and actions be spoken to us from the context in which they were birthed, rather than filtering them through our own pre-set worldviews?  Once again, we realize that properly allowing religious texts and historical information to inform our worldviews takes a truly open mind.

And so it appears that context is everything.  And that keeping an open mind is essential to respecting that context and allowing yourself to be enriched by it.
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