The value of an open mind

  • By Janet Robertson
  • Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:35pm

Back in the old days, when I went to school, we were taught to listen to each other. You were supposed to get the facts, and then you were supposed to listen with an open mind. You learned that people of good will could often disagree with each other. Even about important things.

Then, when I was in college, I met the man I was going to marry, and I found myself disagreeing with my parents about that decision. They wanted the best for me, but it took them longer that I would have liked to open their minds and see that what turned out to be a marriage lasting 50 wonderful years was the right way for their beloved daughter. It’s often hard for the older generation to accept new ideas. But I sincerely believe that an open mind helps move the world forward. We need to bet on the future.

Someone recently suggested this as a way of thinking about the issue of climate change. Suppose you don’t believe that scientists have proven that our carbon emissions have caused the climate to change. But now open your mind and suppose for a second that the scientists are right. (Remember what former Vice President Dick Cheney said about acting on the 1 percent chance?) How would you best be able to cover your bet? Clearly, if you take out some sort of insurance and do what you can to promote renewable energy and reduce our dependence on oil, you can’t lose. If the scientists are wrong, we’re still way ahead when we’re using clean energy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. And if they’re right, we’re also way ahead on the road to stopping global warming. By just listening to each side of a question, you can formulate a way for us all to move on. No one needs to lose that bet on the future.

Conversation – listening with an open mind – is not a lost art. With good will, we can get to a place where we say yes to each other. And now, right here in our own community, a new place to talk has been born. The Friends of the Mill Creek Library, along with the Senior Center, is beginning a series called Mill Creek Conversations where we will have the chance to talk together. The first conversation will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Mill Creek Town Hall Annex. We’ll be talking about “Money in Politics.” (When we picked that topic in mid-winter we had no idea how up-to-the-minute it would be.) Anyone with an open mind is invited to come and join the conversation.

Janet Robertson is a member of the Friends of the Mill Creek Library.

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