Thursday, December 31, 2015

Open Minded

"Don't be so open-minded that your brains fall out."

"You religious types are SO closed-minded!"


I have had this post stewing in the back of my mind for over a year. It's as though the various applicable pieces have arrived at various times and now I must figure out how to lay them out for your understanding. But perhaps you will understand, even if I just give you the pieces instead of trying to string them together.


By President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

As telescopes became more sophisticated—including telescopes that could be launched into space—astronomers began to grasp a spectacular, almost incomprehensible truth: the universe is mind-bogglingly bigger than anyone had previously believed, and the heavens are filled with numberless galaxies, unimaginably far away from us, each containing hundreds of billions of stars.3
In a very short period of time, our understanding of the universe changed forever.
Today we can see some of these distant galaxies.4
We know that they are there.
They have been there for a very long time.
But before mankind had instruments powerful enough to gather celestial light and bring these galaxies into visibility, we did not believe such a thing was possible.
The immensity of the universe didn’t suddenly change, but our ability to see and understand this truth changed dramatically. And with that greater light, mankind was introduced to glorious vistas we had never before imagined.

It Is Hard for Us to Believe What We Cannot See

Suppose you were able to travel back in time and have a conversation with people who lived a thousand or even a hundred years ago. Imagine trying to describe to them some of the modern technologies that you and I take for granted today. For example, what might these people think of us if we told them stories of jumbo jets, microwave ovens, handheld devices that contain vast digital libraries, and videos of our grandchildren that we instantly share with millions of people around the world?
Some might believe us. Most would ridicule, oppose, or perhaps even seek to silence or harm us. Some might attempt to apply logic, reason, and facts as they know them to show that we are misguided, foolish, or even dangerous. They might condemn us for attempting to mislead others.
But of course, these people would be completely mistaken. They might be well-meaning and sincere. They might feel absolutely positive of their opinion. But they simply would not be able to see clearly because they had not yet received the more complete light of truth.

The Things of the Spirit Can Be Understood Only by the Spirit

Scientists were struggling to understand the breadth of the universe until instruments became sophisticated enough to gather in greater light so they could understand a more complete truth.
The Apostle Paul taught a parallel principle regarding spiritual knowledge. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” he wrote to the Corinthians, “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”12
In other words, if you want to recognize spiritual truth, you have to use the right instruments. You can’t come to an understanding of spiritual truth with instruments that are unable to detect it.


Years ago, I worked with a couple kids fresh out of high school, neither religious, in a predominantly Mormon city. I often worked near them and we'd talk, and joke, and were friends as far as I was concerned, and as far as they were, too, I believe. But I was obviously Mormon which contained all their suppositions as ones who were not.

One day I came in to work and the girl told me she had just started studying palmistry. She wanted to look at my palm, because, according to her, the distance between the two main lines indicates 'open vs closed mindedness'. The wider, the more open, the closer, the more closed. She was certain that because I was clearly Mormon, there would be almost no space between the lines on my palms. So I showed her and she compared to her own, and her friend's hand as well. They were both a bit dumb-founded to find my lines were wider apart than either of theirs.


I've written before about my abstracted thinking patterns and how I am very spacial. One of my chosen mind metaphors is similar the Sherlock's noted mind palace, but my metaphor is not bound to memory and location. It is rather a sort of museum wherein new information either catalogs as part of existing exhibits or combines with previously disparate information to create a new exhibit. For me, learning is very much a sense of opening, of expansion.

On a similar note, the ideal of Mormon achievement in the eternities is not simply to sit on clouds in Heaven, playing harps and singing praises. (forever?) Rather, it is to continue learning and growing to be as our Father in Heaven. This concept excites me far more than harps do, though I imagine I'll learn that, too, at some point. There is not enough time in mortality to learn all that interests me.


Perhaps these vignettes help you understand why I find the liberal claim of ownership on 'open-minded' and the reactive conservative Christian warning to not be too open-minded all sorts of backwards. To my view, the secular 'scientific' perspective, which only allows what the five senses can duplicate, is an incomplete model. I have seen it said that the best theories are the ones that take in and use the fullest amount of information to build an understanding. How can you say that billions of people's experiences are null and void if you are not even willing to honestly test for them with the appropriate methodology? How can you claim to have superior understanding when you deny evidence to suit your own preferred interpretation?

This is a frustration, but a minor one, because my model of understanding says they'll figure it out eventually and I still get to aim for the thrill of learning all those skills mortality didn't allow for and finally understanding the answers to SO many questions!

What questions are you waiting to have answered?