I have been watching Seasons 1 and 2 of Fringe for the past few weeks. Given my love for science fiction thrillers and the bizarre, it is not surprising that the show has me hooked. But what I really love is how the show encourages you to have an open mind. No matter how strange or far-fetched an idea may seem, the answer to a crime often lies in “the impossible.” Watching Fringe is a constant reminder of the need for me to view the impossible as possible.
The Limitations of a Closed Mind
As I was growing up, I learned to accept what people told me. It was taboo to challenge the opinion of your elders in an Asian society. When I did, there was always a nasty flare up and soon I learned to tow the line. But in doing so, this very acceptance became my boundary in thought and life. It closed my mind off to new ideas that did not make sense to the majority of the people around me. Over time, it limited my beliefs and became my comfort zone.
Many of us have fixed ideas and assumptions about the world around us. This is necessary if we wish to go about our daily lives. We simply do not have the time and energy to challenge every assumption we face. Yet assumptions are a doubled-edged sword. The danger is that we get so used to them that we close our minds off to any new idea that challenges our beliefs and views. Even if our beliefs are limiting and unhelpful, we cling to them because they are familiar. It is very hard for us leave our comfort zones. Here we have a problem. Instead of helping us, our assumptions might just end up causing us harm in a crisis.
The Dangers of a Closed Mind
The wrong assumptions can easily lead to the loss of many lives. During World War II, the British made such a fatal mistake. Despite reports to the contrary, the British commanders in Singapore refused to believe that the Japanese would invade by land. Instead, they clung to the belief that the attack would come from the sea. In the end, the Japanese did indeed invade by land. This surprise, which should not have been a surprise, took the British by surprise. By the time the British scrambled to adjust their plans, it was too late. Error followed error and the British surrendered despite superior numbers. The fall of Singapore became the worst disaster in British history.
The only limits that we have in life are the limits we choose to accept. If we believe something to be so, it will be so. These self-imposed limits become our boundaries. Everything that exists outside of these limits is impossible to us. Not only does a closed mind make us vulnerable due to the blind spots, it also stifles creativity. This can be fatal when the stakes are high.
Impossible is a State of Mind
I used to think that it was impossible to foresee the outcome of events before they happened. But this view did not arise from personal experience. Instead, I assumed it was so because others said so. As a result, I spent a large part of my life reacting to events that blindsided me. But when I learned divination for myself, my world changed. I gained the ability to make better choices and to pre-empt problems before they happened. What was impossible became possible for me.
Impossible is a state of mind; what is impossible today may not be so tomorrow. What is impossible for us may not be so for others. This means that nothing is impossible if we know how to do it. To think otherwise will prevent us from finding a solution. Take flying for example. In the past, man could not fly. To make such a suggestion then would have made a person look stupid. But because some people refused to believe that flying was impossible, it is possible today. In fact, flying is so common that we take it for granted. The impossible has become the possible. When new changes or ideas become the accepted norms for us, we have greater options at our disposal. Today, we can travel by land, sea or air. In the future, space travel might become common for the masses.
How to Keep an Open Mind
While we may prefer the tried and true, sometimes it is not enough. When this happens, we have no choice but to consider other options. Here having an open mind helps. A saying goes that it is insane to keep trying the same thing and yet expect different results. Impossible is really a matter of perspective. Nothing is impossible; we just have not found the means to make it possible. If that is so, how can we keep an open mind when it matters?
-Assume the impossible is possible and act accordingly
-List your assumptions, then challenge and reverse them
-Step out of our comfort zones occasionally and try new ideas
-Always, ask “what if” and “how”
-Test a new idea by preparing for the worst and hoping for the best
-Try a different perspective
Keeping an open mind is not always easy. But for every idea we close our minds to, we limit the options we have. In times of crisis, it is always best to have as many alternatives as possible. To paraphrase the words of Dr Walter Bishop, “When you open your mind to the impossible, sometimes you find the answer.”
How do you keep an open mind when you face ideas that are alien to your views and beliefs? Do you have any other ideas about having an open mind? Do share your thoughts and comments below.