I tried to think about how to open this blog with a quote or a joke (but who has jokes about being close-minded?), so let me just start by being controversial. I think our culture has taken the whole “open-minded” thing too far; sometimes, we need to be more close-minded.
Collectively, our culture seems to scream, “Don’t tell me I’m wrong! Open your mind!” Not having an open mind is considered to be a bad thing a lot of the time. Okay, let me be clear. I’m not saying we should always close our minds. Let me tell you, I’m not always close-minded. When it comes to things that aren’t of ultimate importance, there’s some flexibility. I like trying new foods, for instance. I’ll try a bunch of foods, even when they sound gross. Pre-sliced peanut butter was a mistake, though (just don’t).
When we’re talking about things that are “about the ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or of Practical reason”, as C.S. Lewis puts it in his book The Abolition of Man, we can’t be open minded forever. It’s good to question things and be open to perspectives to a degree, but you can’t question for forever.
C.S. Lewis explains this clearly: “But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ forever; you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.”
That’s a pretty intense quote. Let me simplify. If you can look through everything, if there’s nothing solid, then there’s nothing to see. That’s all, folks. There have to be underlying, solid truths in the world that we have to accept. There has to be a point we get to, when we stop saying, “Well, I’m open to your perspective,” and we start saying, “I’m sorry, but this is what the facts say.” There has to be truth that’s always true somewhere or else there’s nothing left.
So do you have an open mind? Do you think you should always have an open mind? Cool. Well, I have an idea. I like the outdoors. Are you open to the idea of going outside? Good! Well, I have this theory that if a person goes to the top of a 10-story building, and gets pushed by someone else off of the building, then they won’t get hurt at all when they hit the cement. So let’s go try it!
No? Why not? I thought you had an open mind. You see, if you didn’t think that was a good idea, and you wouldn’t let me push you off the roof of a 10-story building, you closed your mind. But that’s not a bad thing at all. What you know, as a logical person, is that getting pushed off the roof of a building like that would cause you to hit a hard reality: the pavement. At some point in the analogy, you realize that the truth is, maybe my idea isn’t such a great one. There are consequences that come with the idea, and there are some truths about what will happen, regardless of what I choose to think.
In our culture, though, far too often, we aren’t just being pushed off the top of the building; we’re walking right off. We aren’t blind to the truth; we shut our eyes. Ideas have consequences, so it’s important to understand truth. It’s time to open our eyes and close our minds.