Once you blow open a mind, there’s so much that mind can absorb

I happened upon a panel discussion of students from MIIS’ spring break trips yesterday evening.  (MIIS = Monterey Institute of International Studies) A couple of students had visited Washington DC, others Taiwan and China, another to the UN in New York and another to Cuba.  The facilitator asked them questions about their experiences, things they had learned, “ah-ha” moments and advice they had for students.  It was very inspiring to listen to what these students from modest Monterey had witnessed, experienced and lived.  

A woman sitting near me in the audience raised her hand and added to what the student who had visited Cuba had commented about perspective (he had said that visiting Cuba blew his mind).  This woman, who turned out to be Professor Jan Knippers Black, said, “Once you blow open a mind, there’s so much that mind can absorb.”  That stuck with me.  We go through life with our pre-conceived notions, we all do whether we want to admit it or not.  In doing so, we inhibit ourselves from seeing things differently.  Something may not necessarily be right or wrong but we can learn from it, we can adopt in our lives small changes simply from observing how other people live and behave.

Conflicts are started because we assume that those people are doing things the wrong way, they are vehemently anti-“our way” and therefore we must change them or isolate ourselves from them, etc.  How much of life do we miss out on that way?  Imagine if we withheld judgement and looked at other people, cultures, political systems, you name it, as simply different and something from which we can learn.  This is where our mind can absorb things at face value, rather than be muddied by a pall of judgement and preconception.  So next time you watch the news or see something that is different to you, try to assess it with an open mind.  There will be things that even after open-mindedly assessing, you will be opposed to (FGM or slavery, for example), that is alright, but there will be many things that if inspected from another angle, can teach you something (i.e. governments investing in human capital).  

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