On Expanding The Little Mind

April 30, 2009

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

This quotation comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Self Reliance”. I first read this essay about a year ago, and it has had me thinking ever since.

I think my mindset has always been one where, if you change your mind on any given topic at all, then you’re a fool and a coward and a hypocrite. I always try not to say my opinions out loud unless I’m sure I truly believe in what I say, because there’s always the possibility (and in my case, certainty) that there’s an angle that I have not given consideration. And for me, I’m never sure of what I truly believe.

You see, I had a teacher in my freshman year of high school who told us, last day of classes, “Don’t be wishy-washy”. He wanted us to take a stand in the prominent issues of the day. He didn’t want us feigning knowledge by praising the good points of both sides of an argument, because he said that was too safe, and that we would never get anywhere staying on the sidelines. “Progress comes from courage,” he told us, “so don’t be wishy-washy.”

Well, I think that I perhaps took his advice a little too far. I’m so afraid to lend my voice to others, because I might not have found all the points relevant to any given issue. What if I’ve missed something so big, so obvious? And I never feel as though I completely knowledgeable, or at least knowledgeable enough. Am I even allowed to share my opinion? After all, who am I?

But let’s get back to Emerson. This first quote I’ve provided; before reading it, it never occurred to me that yes, it’s okay to change your grounding. You won’t look “wishy-washy” if you’re suddenly swayed by someone else’s argument. It doesn’t make you look weak; in fact, if you have the courage enough to admit that maybe you were wrong, or maybe this person’s got a good point, than you end up being the wiser. (And if it’s the wiser fool, than so be it.)

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2 Responses to “On Expanding The Little Mind”

  1. Notelrac said

    Imagine how different your life would have been if your high school teacher had instead said, “Progress comes from the courage to admit you were wrong. So don’t be inflexible.”

    Or if they had said, “Question authority. Even mine.”

    • donata426 said

      I’ve always loved the whole “Question authority. Even mine” bit. It reminds me of the paradox “I always lie.” Language is a funny thing.

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