My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
We see them everyday … closed-minded people who hurt themselves and others because of their unwillingness to consider other perspectives. They think they know it all already. Often, their resistance stems from fear … of the unknown, of looking foolish, etc. For example, when hand washing — something do as a matter of course as a matter of hygiene — was first introduced and suggested to physicians and surgeons, they resisted, claiming they have always went from patient to patient without washing their hands in between. The “always done it that way” is but a cry of fear.
Don’t be like that. What’s the harm of trying, assuming you have fully explored the new concept and understand that it does not pose a harm? (For example, experimenting with drugs or doing dangerous stunts with neither experience nor safety precautions are simply stupid. You do not need to touch fire to know it is hot. You can learn vicariously.)
We visit the three month old son of a friend this weekend. The baby is hospitalized for pneumonia because fluid is getting into lungs while he’s nursing. The solution is simple: hold the baby up when he’s nursing instead of leaving him horizontal. Unfortunately, the mother insist that’s how babies have always been nursed in her family, and refuses to change her nursing behaviors. Why? What’s the harm of trying? The benefits are significant (the baby no longer has fluid going into his lungs while nursing) and the costs/efforts are minimal. Being closed-minded results in continuing harm to her son, but she refuses to see it.
She is not unique. Many an “educated” man remain closed-minded. For example, a professor of “23 years” — as he proclaimed — was observed by another doctorate that his teaching was ineffective because he was talking AT the kids instead of engaging them and talking to them. He was talking above their heads. Instead of acknowledging the constructive feedback, he dismissed it and reasserted his claim that he has taught at universities for 23 years. Because he stressed his robust university teaching experience, I asked why he is not tenured. His response was that the tenure process is nothing but a popularity contest. In other words, he failed to get tenure (which usually occur withing 7-10 years of teaching) because people did no like him. But, doesn’t that go to the root of his problem — he lacks the requisite soft skills to engage effectively and communicate with his students and colleagues? His protests stem from his fear and insecurities, and he is not helped by being closed-minded. How does it benefit him to brush off all suggestions that he has weaknesses? It doesn’t. He continues to move from school to school, with each subsequent school being less reputable than the preceding one. You know how his story will end.
Be open-minded my sons. Eleanor Roosevelt said you can learn something from everyone. She’s right.
This reminds me of a story. Once, there was a great swordsman. He came to this small town, and boasted to the barkeep about how great a swordsman he is. The barkeep, not missing a beat, refilled a bottle of house wine from the cast without spilling a drop. He then turned to the swordsman and asked, “Can you do that?”
The lesson is that we each have our strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be blinded by your skills and arrogance and fail to recognize the gifts of others.
All my love, always,