Is it possible to learn open-mindedness? Rabbi Rami explores his perspective on curiousity versus truth.
I’m emotionally illiterate. I’m an Enneagram 5 and a Myers-Briggs INTJ. I belong to a religion that, despite its Hasidic movement, values intellect over emotions and the study of text over the intensity of prayer. I am an advanced student of Constructive Living where behavior takes precedence over feelings. And I am a contemplative who is more comfortable observing the wild fluctuations of thoughts and feelings than doing anything with them. So, as I prepared for my conversation with Sherianna Boyle about her new book Energy in Action: The Power of Emotions and Intuition to Cultivate Peace and Freedom, my initial reaction was, “uh-oh.”
However, I did my best to keep an open mind, which brings me to this essay's topic: open-mindedness.
According to the University of Pennsylvania, open-mindedness “is the willingness to search actively for evidence against one’s favored beliefs, plans, or goals, and to weigh such evidence fairly when it is available.” On the surface that should be easy enough; Energy in Action is filled with such evidence, or at least affirmations of such evidence. So, all I had to do was weigh the evidence fairly. But what does that mean? How can I weigh all her evidence fairly when doing so would mean I would have to set aside everything I know and then engage with what Sherianna Boyle knows tabula rasa, from a clean slate? I couldn’t do it.
I’m not saying I’m right and she’s wrong. I’m saying that I’m not open-minded. Worse still: I have no idea how to become open-minded!
I don’t know what I know to be true because I thought it through logically and then concluded that it was true. I just know.
This isn’t a matter of belief or faith either. I just know.
I just know that all reality—you and me and everything else in the universe—is a manifesting of a nondual reality called by many names (YHVH, God, Krishna, Kali, Nature, Spirit, Brahman, Mind, Tao, etc.). And I know this the same way I know that I am fat. I just look and see what is so. While I have feelings about both God and being fat, my feelings have no impact on the reality of God or being fat. God is God, and fat is fat, and since God is everything, God is also fat and might even have feelings about that, but God’s feelings and mine (which are also God’s because, well, you know, God is everything) are irrelevant.
Since my knowing isn’t a choice, I can’t pretend to be open-minded about it because being open-minded means being willing to not know what I know if the evidence against what I know were strong enough to disprove what I know. The problem is my knowing isn’t based on evidence. I didn’t come to know what I know through science; I just knew it.
But not being open-minded doesn’t mean I can’t benefit from reading Energy in Action and talking with the book’s author, Sherianna Boyle. I can learn from people whether I agree with them or not. The universe is far too complex to be reduced to something I can grasp completely, and the insights of others always enrich my own. But that only means I’m curious, not open-minded. And, for me at least, that will have to do.
Listen to the podcast that inspired this essay here.