An open mind, open at both ends: The problem with open-mindedness

“An open mind, to be sure, should be open at both ends, like the food pipe, and have a capacity for excretion as well as intake.” – Northrop Frye

So what does it mean to have an open mind? It’s an idea that’s greatly celebrated, encouraged, and it seems like in the most part it’s a very good thing to be open to new ideas, to be open to re-evaluating our positions.
The opposite being the closed mind, where we have a fixed set of beliefs, and everything that is new will be evaluated against those beliefs, and if it doesn’t work, if it doesn’t fit, then we reject what’s new, because with a closed mind, our mind is set at whatever it is.
But for all the great advantages of the open mind, it’s an idea that can be taken a bit too easily.
There’s an old quote which I tried to track down.
I can’t find who said it.
It has been attributed to the Canadian author Northrop Frye, but I can’t verify that. [CORRECTION: I confirmed the quote, above.]
And that is that you should have an open mind, but it should be open at both ends.
And another old expression which has been repeated in many forms is: don’t have a mind so open that your brains fall out.
So, for all the advantages of the open mind, it also comes with a price, with a vulnerability, that we need to protect our minds against influences coming in.
Now, as soon as I say that, I immediately think of somebody sheltering themselves from the world and trying to avoid anything that they disagree with, and that’s the extreme of it.
But we are open to so much input.
There is so much messaging and sales and ideas being promoted to us, all around us, that if we were to have a completely open mind, it would soon fill up with noise.
We need to be the gatekeepers of our mind, and keep- maintain some kind of a space where we can be free of ideas, and in a sense a quiet space in our mind.
We need to tend a quiet space in our mind.
So the closed-minded mistake would be to reject any new idea.
But the mistake of the extreme open-minded would be to let any idea in to fill our minds.
We need to have some kind of protection to be able to maintain some kind of inner space in our minds where we can be undisturbed.
Because there is just so much noise surrounding us, and so many influences that are trying to get in.
We are targets of attempted persuasion throughout the day, by all the advertising that we see, by people in our lives, by ideas all around us.
And we are being courted and targeted and, really, attacked with thoughts and ideas at all times.
So, while it’s a mistake to run from this and shut it all off, as if we can just imagine these things don’t exist, it would also be a mistake to let just anything in.
So let’s be the gatekeepers and the guardians of our mind, looking out into the world of ideas, maybe welcoming them, welcoming ideas in for a trial, perhaps, and giving ideas a chance.
But when it comes to what ideas and thoughts we allow into our inner garden, our inner minds, for that let’s keep some space in our minds for only the best.

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