"As she stood looking at it, wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she heard a pitter patter of feet coming toward her..." (C S Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia)

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Thought about Thinking, a little tribute to Chesterton

I have to offer another quote. Sorry, I've been reading GK Chesterton and I just love this guy. I'll try to supply the context after,

"...the modern man fancies he has reached supreme culture because he opens his intellect...There is one odd aspect of the man with this sort of open mind...it is that being thus gaping and helpless, he is really brutal and oppressive. he tyrannises; he forces on all other men his own insolent indecision. He forbids his followers to come to any conclusion till he has done so. He will allow no one else to find the truth...He is the worst tyrant that the world has seen; he is the persecuting sceptic. He is the man who has held up the whole world now for over a hudred years." (London Times Oct 16, 1909)

His point is very simple. One who tries to forever remain an 'open mind' is one who can never actually come to a decision. For example to be open-minded when it comes to say abortion, or euthenasia, or Reformed theology really means to never actually believe anything definitive about it. Once you do you become 'closed-minded.' And the one who demands others maintain an open mind really demands indecisiveness upon others. To maintain an open mind is to never close down on an idea, or theology, or viewpoint. It really is to detach yourself from the world of thought. Isn't it interesting that the ebbing flow of culture has taken something so compassionate sounding 'open mindedness' to mask something so bland and boring and dangerous as detachment?

As a side note --read GK Chesterton, you'll love him (probably)!

1 comment:

chris said...

what's that old joke about being so open-minded your brains fall out? i've noticed that the most "open-minded" often fall into two camps: the lazy and the militant.

Since the average American watches, what, 4 hours of TV a day and many people don't engage in any thought-provoking activities at all, being open-minded is the easiest option. many of the "open-minded" individuals that i know personally have half-formed opinions based on TV sound bites, misinformation, a desire for the easy answer, and a sad lack of concern for knowing truth. They aren't bad people or ill-intentioned, just... intellectually and morally lazy.

i also see the militant every day at law school, as i attend arguably the most liberal school in america (not a single conservative faculty; students think it's worse to illegally download music than have an abortion).

the few conservative-leaning students on campus (myself included) have found that, if you aren't passionately liberal (socially and politically), your opinion is really not acceptable. i've noticed that the more "open-minded" a person considers himself or herself, the more viciously that person attacks opposing viewpoints. it's not just students, either - i've actually heard professors sneer at comments which hint at non-liberal ideas. in general, anything other than liberal ideology is branded as intolerant, hateful, and unwelcome.

i don't mind this because i am constantly challenged to be thoughtful and articulate about what i believe, and people generally respect that in one-to-one conversations. however, the prevailing atmosphere is overwhelmingly opposed to "dissenting" viewpoints - hardly what the casual observer would expect from an institution that takes great pains to be "open-minded."