Saturday, May 9, 2009

Open Mind

It’s hard to avoid bumping up against closed-mindedness. I’m closed minded sometimes, but aspire to be open. If I catch myself closing down, I try to open up.
People do make judgments, saying something is good, bad, weird, boring, positive, negative, and so on. Often the judgments are hastily made, without reflection and without the person being properly informed about the matter. Gustave Flaubert wrote an imbecile’s dictionary, The Dictionary of Received Ideas, a collection of common opinions, predictable, ignorant and downright stupid pronouncements on various topics.
This could be quite amusing, except that one has to deal with such ill-informed people just about every day in a variety of situations. If you question the person, he or she might get emotional, intimidating you into keeping quiet. He might even bully you into playing along with his or her ignorance.
I learned over the years what happens when you try to have a discussion with someone who is not open to discussion. I’ve been punched in the face, spat on and lectured into silence and submission. One time a man literally followed me home from the café, attacking me with an endless monologue. He really wanted to set me straight. I literally had to walk into my house and slam the door in his face. He wouldn’t allow me to interrupt his monologue long enough to say goodbye. It’s amazing to meet people who are so self-assured and who feel they know what is right me and for the universe, a kind of megalomania. Name a topic and he or she has the answer.
Anyway, the question I’m raising: why is it so difficult to be open-minded? Why is it so difficult to examine one’s assumptions and beliefs? Are there certain concepts you hold sacred that you would never be able to question?
The other day I listened to the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. The album was quite interesting and unconventional when it appeared. A response one gets when mentioning the album: yeah, the Beatles were on LSD when they did those songs. So that’s all there is to it. End of discussion.
Strawberry Fields, I Am the Walrus, Blue Jay Way and similar songs don’t fit the pop song mold. They stretch the genre of popular music, maybe even making some listeners uncomfortable or perplexed. However, the Beatles were sufficiently popular, so people accepted their experimental songs and they too became popular.
It never entered the discussion that one does not have to be on LSD to write something that pushes the boundaries. One merely needs to be open-minded enough to allow the imagination to play, to give oneself permission to explore. Exploration is generally discouraged or curtailed with snide remarks, like: that’s weird, twisted, warped. One might even accuse the artist of deliberately trying to piss off the listener. Some people thought Picasso was deliberately leading people by the nose and laughing as he broke the conventions of painting. They say: that’s not art. I don’t understand it, etc.
Basically such refusal to understand, and such dogmatic statements are based on uptightness and closed-mindedness, in other words, a refusal to be open to what is there, an unwillingness to even give it a chance.
John Lennon appreciated culture. He mentioned the influence of James Joyce, who pushed language, pun and word play to the limit, in a way that John Lennon enjoyed and tried to emulate in some of his song writing. Creativity does not depend on drugs; it depends on having an open mind and giving oneself permission to explore what lies beyond the limit of habit or belief.
It’s amazing what you can do when you give yourself permission to explore, when you’re awake and brave enough to set aside what you’ve been taught, or what you habitually accepted as being the last word on reality.

1 comment:

Sheilanagig said...

A truly beautiful post. I would like to use it in my blog, with link to your site of course, sometime this week. With your permission.

Closed mindedness is a lethal thing - more so than bombs I think. BUt getting around it is another problem.

Thanks for your refreshing post.