“A point of view can be a dangerous luxury
when substituted for insight and understanding.”
— Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy
Perhaps Marshall McLuhan was a time traveller. These prescient words were written more than fifty years ago when the black and white television was the only screen in most homes.
My dad used to tell jokes and always had a funny saying for every occasion. I suggested once that he keep an open mind about something. His response? “I don’t want an open mind, my brain might fall out.”
Sometimes I couldn’t tell if dad was joking because jokes are usually funny and well, this speaks for itself.
Joking aside, I was raised to listen, learn and fall in line. Questioning authority was something men were sometimes allowed to do, but only on rare occasions, but women? Never. The problem for me was that I question everything. It gets me into trouble.
I unearthed some old report cards this week. I can almost plot a course of self-destruction over the three years I was unfortunate enough to be stuck in a horrible church-run school that hated me almost as much as I hated it. Oh, would that I had attended a Steiner school or the Green School in Bali (if they had one of those back then), or Hogwarts. sigh…
Even though I was pre-disposed to be a bit of a disturbing element and ask too many questions, I had to constantly unlearn many opinions and beliefs, some of which were so deeply held I was surprised to see them when they popped up, like an unfortunate outfit tucked at the back of the wardrobe that I’d forgotten I owned. Some of this unlearning has really only happened in the last few years. I’ve raised my son to listen, learn, read, listen to someone else, read something different, learn some more, question, question, question!
And most of all, we need to question our own opinions, our biases and our beliefs. And is it so bad to ask ourselves where these things come from?
Our minds are like children; they must be fed to grow and they will only grow on what we feed them. If we feed them garbage and waffle they will be stunted and petty. If we feed our minds on hate and cruelty, our thoughts cannot help but be hateful and cruel. If we close our minds and allow only what the damn algorithm lets through then we will be fed a steady diet of WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW, which tricks us thinking we know it all!
You know what they say about opinions?
All of us can benefit from an open-minded approach to learning but as writers and creatives especially, we owe it to ourselves to get outside of our circle of understanding and push ourselves to learn, to see things from another perspective. Stephen King says our first 1,000,000 words are garbage and I’d assert that any number of words written by someone who refuses to read, to learn, to grow will be garbage.
When asked if he thought the human race was evolving, Nobel Prize-winning author and teacher Elie Wiesel said it comes down to the individual to evolve. Same goes for peace, kindness, animal liberation, racial equality…
“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think can be most useful.” ~MARIE CURIE
One last thing…
If you learn from me, just one thing it would be to think higher and feel deeper ~ Elie Wiesel