On Being Open to Learn

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I am quite convinced that what I know and believe is true. So this morning I inwardly recoiled when I read, "It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows." [Hat tip: Heather Sanders]

That's simply not true. I think I know and yet I am also totally open to learn. But if you were to read the rest of Heather's post, you'd realize that the quote above isn't completely clear. The deeper issue is pride. And you and I both know how impossible someone is who pridefully believes something.

The distinction, then, is not confidence. We can know things with certainty. The difference between one who learns and those of us who do not is openness. Are my ears and eyes closed in conceit, or am I sure enough of my position to listen and look in humility?

Let's take the example of the 2+2=5 joke. We both know the answer is four. But someone approaches us and says otherwise.

I scoff and tell them they are sorely mistaken.

You, more humble and certain of your grasp of math, instead raise an eyebrow. "How do you figure?" you ask.

"Well," this clever little urchin grins back, "2+2=5 for very large values of 2."

You chuckle, realizing this is true. By looking only at the whole number, we may overlook the decimal that brings us to five or beyond. 2.7 plus 2.7 is not four. I, too proud to admit I didn't see the turn, contest the statement, noting that significant digits were misused in this instance (which is all too true).

Too-Proud-to-Laugh
Too Proud to Laugh

Granted, a bad joke doesn't have much to do with learning. But this same split between the proud and humble works out elsewhere with more impact. You and I can both be confident that our interpretation of Scripture is correct, but am I open to hear what you have to say if I find we are in disagreement? And how many times are our differences not as drastic as they appear, resting more on different assumptions about what is significant and what is not?

We life-long learners do not fear learning. We do not stop up our ears and close our eyes. We are humble enough to consider that there is much more to learn.

But that does not require that we believe we could be wrong. We are right, what we hold to is true, but there is more to learn. We're open to more.

Or, to put it in the words of a quote I heard as a child, "The purpose of an open mind is to close it again on something true."

I am right. My opinions are well grounded in reality.

But when someone shows me a piece I have overlooked, I do my best to gladly re-anchor into a firmer position.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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