I have decided on a metaphor for my view on having an open mind vs. being an idiot.
I think of it like language, reading in particular. Let us invent a man, his name will be Teddy. Teddy is from New Jersey, and he knows the English language as butchered by America as his first language. He learned how to read it before any other language. This is what he knows as his base language.
In school Teddy learned French, because I like French and I invented Teddy so he does too. Teddy appreciates the language for its nuance, its beauty, and its difficulty. Teddy understands that there are many languages out there, and while he can now read, write, and speak in two languages, he still claims English as his first language, his base language.
Now, keeping that on a back burner (set to simmer, right above low) let us explore the idea of morals. According to a dictionary the first definition of moral (adjective) as of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical. Ethics, in turn, as a plural noun is defined as a system of moral principles. These are words often associated with religion, which as a noun is defined as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
What I can see here is a difference. While religion includes morals, morals and ethics don’t include religion. This is of interest to me because during a conversation recently a friend said the following:
L’Allemand brûlant: “But now I need to find a balance between self-fulfillment and something that betters the world… there could be a God, but never enough proof for or against so it takes “faith” which I had perhaps before, but not now.”
C’est moi: “Why not?”
L’Allemand brûlant: “Because of that fact: you can’t prove it, and can’t disprove it so it’s almost irrelevant. If I choose to have faith, then I feel that I forsake all the universe has to offer. I don’t want to miss the true meaning of the universe because of one decision.”
So this person has decided that he doesn’t want to miss out on all of the possibilities of the universe, and because of that he has chosen not to have faith in anything. This is how I see it, perhaps you and Teddy wouldn’t, but I do. So now I will take that back pot off the burner and show you how the ingredients represent my argument.
If we consider basic morals and ethics, maybe even religion, to be the language in Teddy’s story we can use this to further my case against Stupid. Let us revise; saying that Teddy was raise Catholic and his entire belief system is based on what he learned from the Catholic teachings. In school Teddy learns about Buddhism, and he is intrigued by some of the teachings and from the differences to his own belief system. Now, if Teddy had a closed mind he would learn about Buddhism only for the scholastic benefit, meanwhile considering anyone who believed in “all that mumbo-jumbo hippie crap” (his words, not mine) is wrong, wrong, wrong! This line of thinking is actually what I would consider wrong. If Teddy has an open mind he would look into Buddhism with curiosity about the historical and cultural effects, perhaps not integrating it into his own belief system, but respecting it for being another line of thinking that others have lived by.
Now let’s think about what would happen if Teddy decided that there were far too many belief systems and that the existence of so many negates any one being correct. He falls away from his base religion, learns about a myriad of others, and is overwhelmed with the feeling that it is absurd to have faith in any without knowing which is correct. Without having a base religion, he would decide that the moral codes he once had were just as invalid as every other one: if one religion believes in covering women completely and another believes in allowing them to wear whatever they like, neither can be right. If in one religion a man is killed for something that he is not killed for in another, they are both wrong.
Speaking of absurdity, Albert Camus found himself on the outside of faith and religion as well. He called himself an atheist, but came to the decision that the absence of religious belief can be accompanied by a longing for salvation and meaning. At one point he said that “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.” As it would seem, the disbelief and faithless logic that is seen throughout generations is accompanied by what may be described as a basic human impulse. Like a young child believing that Daddy will be able to fix anything, there is still an instinct to believe that there is something bigger out there, and a desire to be under that protection.
In the case of Teddy, I would see his inability to anchor his beliefs or morals in one area as one who would refuse to have one base language. It would be as though he decided upon learning about all the other languages in the world that since he couldn’t imagine which one was universally correct he wouldn’t use one at all.
George Bernard Shaw once said that “the open mind never acts: when we have done our utmost to arrive at a reasonable conclusion, we still – must close our minds for the moment with a snap, and act dogmatically on our conclusions” Therein is the logic that would spurn Teddy (since I created him) to chose one of the incredibly overwhelming options available that would be under the label of Moral Codes, Ethics, and Religions. When refusing to anchor ourselves we float and when floating we do not have the ability to direct ourselves. In order to live a life that is his own Teddy has decided that his language is English, and he will learn other languages if he so chooses. He uses his language to excel at school and explain himself to others. He goes to college at Brown, does a semester in France, and goes on to get his masters at Harvard. He eventually becomes a leader in the Green movement, which has to do with warring against global warming, and his words inspire others to make great changes that help their cities, states, and world. Teddy changed the world because he chose a language and decided that whether it was the right one or not, it was the right one for him.
“He who believes is strong; he who doubts is weak. Strong convictions precede great actions.” – Louisa May Alcott