The Point Of A Mind, Like A Mouth, Is To Close On Something

Yesterday I went to Salem, and I had a generally enjoyable time even if I ended up with a great deal to think about and ponder over as is generally the case when I venture out into public.  One of the more thoughtworthy matters from yesterday that I would like to comment about at more length was the sermonette by the gentleman who hosted the party I attended in Salem last week [1].  His message was on the matter of being open-minded, and he had some critical things to say about the way in which that hackneyed expression is used in our contemporary period, thoughts I would like to echo as well as amplify here today.  This is a subject that I discuss from time to time [2] and would like to do so again today because it offers a way to better understand our world and the way in which we think and behave.

For one, let us note that no one, save someone who is naive and ignorant as a whole, has an open mind.  To be sure, we are all open to certain influences that come from certain places but remain resolutely closed to others.  When we compliment others for being open-minded, what we generally mean is a sign of praise that they are open to what we have to say, not a praise that their mind is open in general.  If the same person showed themselves open to what we viewed to be ridiculous and erroneous, we would likely find them to be credulous and foolish rather than open-minded.  And it is precisely this problem that we ought to consider when it comes to the openness of mind.  Claims about truth and worldview tend to bring with them different sets of qualities to which we are open or closed, and there are a wide variety of contradictory and hostile truth claims about which we become aware if we are at all sensitive and alert to what is going around us.  We are faced with the question of how to evaluate these claims, and how it is that we are to be open to some things and not to others.

One thing we must be careful about is to be suspicious of any sort of worldview or truth claim that tries to pander to us or flatter us as an audience.  One of the unfortunate aspects of truth that we need to keep in mind is that a great deal of truth has things to say that are not pleasant for us to hear.  Those aspects of the truth that are pleasant to hear or supportive of our interests are those aspects of truth that we are by nature the most open to from the start.  It is precisely those aspects of a worldview that are hostile or questioning to us–not necessarily what we were reared to accept–that we must be attuned to.  If the people who promote a worldview are continually praising us for being so wise and discerning for adopting their worldview and gratifying our lusts and longings, no matter how problematic they are, it is extremely likely that these people do not have our best interests at heart.  One of the genuine aspects of love that is most troublesome for us is the fact that those who love us the most want us to be better than we would be if left to our own unassisted efforts.  Those who heap praise on us for the way that we are and encourage us to indulge even more in those less praiseworthy aspects of our character clearly do not love us, but are precisely agents of corruption rather than salvation.

One of the more intriguing aspects of a true worldview is that it should equip us for conflict and debate in a world filled with a great deal of hostile and contradictory worldviews and perspectives.  If we are presented with a worldview that attempts to silence those in opposition with hostile laws or definitions, we can rest assured that this worldview lacks confidence in its truth value.  If a worldview cannot deal with conflict, it is not a worldview that people ought to adopt, because to adopt any worldview at all in our world is to guarantee that we are in conflict with someone.  On the contrary, a worldview that frankly acknowledges the embattled state of knowledge and opinion in our world and which openly and forthrightly enjoins us to cast down every argument that seeks to stand up against the truth is precisely the sort of worldview that we should adopt.  A worldview that has to be protected from competition is not a worldview that deserves our assent or approval, but a worldview that equips us for conflict and wrestling and debate, and that reminds us that the truth does not bring us peace but a sword in a rebellious world, is precisely the sort of worldview we need in the world that we live in.

After all, the point of a mind is not to be open but to close on the right things, and that implies there is some way that we can determine the difference between the right things and the wrong things.  The worldviews which we devour and close our minds upon bear fruit in our lives through our behaviors and our attitudes.  By examining the fruits of our lives we can better understand the quality of what it is that we believe.  To the extent that the fruit of our lives is wicked behavior towards others and a trail of broken relationships and suffering left in our wake, we have not devoted ourselves to the right way to live.  To the extent, on the other hand, that our lives are devoted to service and love and concern for other people and for their elevation through kindness and truth, those fruits out to be visible in the way that we live as well.  If, as is more likely, that the fruits of our lives are mixed, so too is that evidence that our worldview and attitudes are a complex mixture of good and evil, and that we hope for a merciful judge who will look kindly upon us.  And truly, is that not the best any of us have to hope for given the complexity of the lives that we live?

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to The Point Of A Mind, Like A Mouth, Is To Close On Something

  1. Pingback: A Fair Homiletic Standard | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Attributes Of A Just Man | Edge Induced Cohesion

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