“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” –Terry Pratchett
One of the benefits of having an open mind is to be able to receive new information from time to time. But just because it is open, it isn’t necessary for it to be used as a trashcan. Sometimes, people with closed minds want to share with you. Be careful: occasionally they might want to help you seal yours shut so it will be just like theirs.
My father had a sense of humor. Those who knew him would think that is an understatement. Whenever he was introduced to a minister (of any denomination), he would ask (without specifying a topic):
“Well, do you preach fer it, or agin it?”
No matter what they answered, he’d take up a defense for the opposite. If they said “agin it”, he’d say:
“Well, I’m usually fer it, but you go ahead and sound off on how ye ain’t fer it, and we’ll see where it gits us.”
Usually about then, the poor minister would realize nobody had acknowledged what specifically they were talking about. After all, to be for or against something requires a “something”, and none had been declared (don’t be taken in by folksy colloquialisms: my father was an extremely well read, and thoughtful man).
It is amazing how many times folks will react negatively or positively about something based entirely on where their previous train of thought had taken them. Some trains of thought are in sad repair, and further condemned by being constructed from bits and pieces of this, that and the other from their flimsy little book of pat answers.
Poorly maintained trains are easier to derail than those under the scrutiny of proper up keep. That goes double for the rails (dogma). It is particularly easy if folks announce themselves to be republicans or democrats since both like to set the width of the tracks without any consideration for the train that has to run on it. It is easier still if their claim is to be liberal or conservative, especially when they are so eager to be “fer it” or “agin it” without a clue as to what the debate topic is.
Recently, a man I’ve known for a long time tried to get a conversation going with me about The Reverend Rick Warren’s recent trendy book: The Purpose Driven Life. Being button-holed like that always makes me a little nervous. I suppose he felt strongly motivated to witness to me, as I do often maintain a posture that projects such a needful image.
I knew where he was heading. He’d done this to me before. Now and then he would try to open up a subject that would lead right into an invitation to attend his church. He belongs to one of those huge mega-churches with valet parking. They hold about twenty-five or thirty services every week-end beginning right after lunch on Friday and running through late Sunday night. Bank officers and lawyers are standing by to assist with the closing in case you want to join.
The services are full of pageantry and a carnival-like atmosphere just short of a midway where you might otherwise win a teddy bear. They have rock bands, multi-media international simulcasts, petting zoos for small children, a movie theater, an Olympic sized pool, and a bowling alley right next to the gymnasium and fitness center. They have enough buses to service an entire school system in a rural county. If the church had been equipped with a Ferris wheel and bumper cars, I might have gone. The conversation went something like this:
“Are you familiar with The Purpose Drive Life?”
“Yep, I’m married to her.”
“She’s purpose driven, alright. But most wives are.”
“I’d say so. That was the deal, for better or for worse as long as we live. ‘least that was what we said, and I figure we said it on purpose.”
“I’m talking about Rick Warren’s book.”
“He wrote a book about my wife?”
“Well, it’s been a good life for us, but I don’t recommend it for everybody. The pathway is full of curves and sharp turns, and bumpy at times. You have to avoid the ruts. Most folks don’t fare well on such a way. They just mess everything up.”
“You’re doing this on purpose!”
“Pretty much. ‘bout everything we do is done for some reason or another. Don’t you agree?”
“I gotta get back to work.”
“I’ll tell my wife you asked about her.”
A few days later I saw him talking to another man. I heard him ask:
“Did you see the movie, “Old Yeller”?
The other man considered the question without giving the slightest hint of knowing that he was about to receive a new puppy.