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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brady

Change My Mind

I can remember seeing a guy sitting behind a folding card table drinking a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning in the park.  He was casually reading a paperback and had a small sign on top of the table that read, my name is Jeff I think we should disband the military, feel free to change my mind.  I am sure you have seen this type of thing before, if not just picture it.  I love this ideal because it takes courage to tell the world what you think and stand for, but remain open to new possibilities if they should present themselves. 

Some of the greatest minds this world has produced were of this same mindset.  They believed and taught that the true sign of intelligence is to hold an ideal in your mind and play with it, to try to discern it's viability and worthiness without committing to it like dogma. 

As we loosen our grip and step into not-knowing (or at least being-not-so-sure), we have the opportunity to free ourselves from the self-imposed prison of ignorance. —Pamela Weiss, 

All of today's ideas, whether good or bad, are connected to the past and need to be run against the long list of past events and experiences that truly formed them.  This proves a daunting task:  to entertain an idea without committing to it on some basis of principle or predilection then demanding proof and constant reassessment and refinement until the idea is fully formed.  Empirically evaluating the resultant idea against past performance is a must to determine viability. 

Most of us have a hard time grasping the elusiveness of a truly original thought.  When you think about how many inputs or streams of data you are subjected to every day, you can start to see how your own ideas can be infiltrated by outside influence.  Just think of all the things you read or hear every day without giving them much thought.  Subconsciously, things just have a way of creeping in.  So why is it we seem to give most of these ideas so much weight?  It is as though we are suspending critical judgement and accepting ideas not on their merit and viability but on how they are perceived by the majority of whatever faction we associate with. 

We should only suspend critical judgement on the rarest of occasions.  One of these examples would be when trying to appreciate art, when we immerse ourselves deeper into art to better understand its complexities and sometimes rare beauty.  When dealing with societal issues that affect how our or any people are governed or govern themselves, we must always keep our mental defenses on high alert.  To become drunk on an idea because of its perceived usefulness or good nature without first testing its effectiveness against its historical performance is foolish.  To think that somehow things will be different this time, that somehow the timing is better, or that best of all that it will be implemented more effectively is fool hearted.  Unlike the phrase,  "past performance is not an indication of future gains" so favored by those selling securities and investments, past performance is the case with predicting human behavior. Time has generally been a good editor of social experiments. 

 I will leave you with a quote by Seneca who referred to these matters by saying the following.  “If the spirit is sound, if it is properly adjusted and has dignity and self-control, the intellect will be sober and sensible too.”  

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