Catalysts and Dogmas: Cultivating an Open Mind

When I got pregnant, it was neither a surprise nor unwelcome. I was slightly terrified, as it was clear to me that while I had the advantages of a partner and financially stable home, I was completely unprepared to have a child. I started doing what I always do – I researched, reading every parenting book I could get my hands on.

canstockphoto22961553That’s when I started buying organic food. We had the income, organics somehow seemed like a moral choice and we lived in a metro area where it was relatively easy to obtain. Twelve years later, we’re still buying some organics, but in that time the discussion surrounding our food has changed significantly.

Corporations own most of the widely known organic food lines. It has been shown repeatedly that the USDA certification of Organic has been degraded by loopholes and the use of natural pesticides, some of which are more deadly than the synthetics. Production of organic food requires more land, especially as the demand rises.

Ever since nutrition became a science, we’ve screwed up how we eat six ways to Sunday. Shopping carts have become moral edicts and just another way to judge ourselves and each other. Go to any nutrition or food forum and people are squabbling away a like political rivals. And are just as useful.

canstockphoto15362073Spring is a few months away in Minnesota and I’ve begun thinking about our garden. I’ve been a haphazard gardener for years. We have blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, grapes, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, spinach, peppers, peas, broccoli, onions and herbs each summer. It doesn’t all get eaten, because we also have a lot of rabbits, squash bugs, birds, squirrels and Japanese beetles. We don’t spray and we try to use composted soils, so our garden tends to support an ecosystem all on its own.

I’m not great at it. The food is delicious, but I have yet to master when to plant what when. I forget, when sowing all those optimistic seeds, that I’m the only one in the family who likes tomatoes and peppers and that everyone else really loves green beans (blech). Our spring weather is inconsistent and I have to approach planting with all the knowledge of a soothsayer, which is to say, I guess. Does it smell like rain or frost? Are the birds and bugs coming to life?

canstockphoto15476528The last couple of years, I’ve been trying to up my game – putting in structures and fencing, rotating where things get planted, using companion planting guides, and really working rich stuff into the soil. I’m learning, but also developing a greater appreciation for how challenging it is to grow things. The produce from our garden seems to taste better than store bought, likely because the distance from garden to table is so short – less storage time in a warehouse. Often, the food doesn’t even make it to the table, as we stand about grazing in the garden.

My feelings about food and the dogma that surrounds it is changing, not because someone bullied or lectured me into it, but because I literally and figuratively dug in – learning how food is grown and pursuing all venues of information regardless of what side of the fence it grew on. I read the research, mindful of who paid for it and why. I read opinion pieces, paying close attention to what the writers’ agenda served.

canstockphoto1569360I’m not ready to give up on finding or growing high quality food. I think our food and water supplies are critical issues. But I no longer assume government labels and price are the end-all, be-all. I don’t look at others who buy cheaper produce and think, well…anything. They might be the smarter shopper. There is a whole industry set on confusing the hell out of us. Most of us are just doing the best we can, whether it’s shopping on a shoestring budget or focusing on what might be the “best” choice for ourselves and our families.

So, this brings me back to the whole point of this post. Listening to the “March for Life” speeches from yesterday, I searched for a point of commonality. This is where dogma ends and change begins – searching for the humanity that we share.

I thought about the babies born who get discounted as adults. The homeless, gun culture victims, the people who are mentally ill, or alienated and abandoned. I began to think about how humans are locusts, devouring everything in their path and that more is definitely not better. And I remember all the hateful rhetoric about the sexuality of women and how they deserve to die if they get an illegal abortion or even use birth control.

canstockphoto28695545And then I began to think about my own daughter. How my world is so much better with her in it. How I’ve become so aware of my own choices and role in the world, because I want it and myself to be better for her. Life is, indeed, a miracle, but less so as scientists manage to recreate it in a Petri dish and we learn to care for adult humans less and less, because we are so attached to our beliefs that we dehumanize each other.

I remain pro-choice. I am not for abortion, but I am for caring about the humans who are already born, including those teenage and adult women who know what they can and cannot bear. Purity in belief systems is easily dismantled with facts. When Vice President Pence says that “Life is Winning Again in America” while his cohort promises military buildup and suggests that he might send Federal troops into American cities, I know it is a lie. Life is only winning for some. For some already born humans, violence and harm has arrived or is on the horizon.

Still,  I understand why people feel so strongly on either side of the debate. That I want to stand in between them and listen with both ears, is the best I can do at this point. That I try to read research studies and editorials is one way to cultivate an open mind. I don’t have an interest in screaming and shouting at people, nor the patience to allow them to scream at me. I do have time to listen to civil discussion, to consider, to research and to believe that we all think what we’re doing is right and good and the best choice.

canstockphoto9531862Humans aren’t all that bright. After all, we’ve been squabbling and killing each other since the beginning of time. The human brain adapts and seems to evolve at a painfully slow pace, but we can give it a boost if we do the real work of critical thinking and listening. Because the logical end game of the relentless pursuit of dogma is that we’re all dead and no one wins.

Thank you to Greg, from Almost Iowa, for providing food for thought in the comment section of past posts.

Have you changed your mind on a particular issue? What was the catalyst?

If you have softened your stance on an issue, what convinced you?

Administrative Note: This post contains 2 for the price of 1 hot button issues. It will be moderated. Please understand the subject is dogma and how we deal with our own. Any proselytizing and/or incivility will be promptly shut down. Please see my comment policy. My hope is for a discussion about how we change or soften our minds about strong beliefs. I’m curious about it. Aren’t you?

18 Comments on “Catalysts and Dogmas: Cultivating an Open Mind

  1. Dogmas come and go, as the authorities who create the “incontrovertible” truths come and go. I’d suggest that the way in which anyone deals with the dogmas has to do with how much of a joiner you are. If belonging to groups is your thing, then you’ll be inclined to [almost] automatically accept the dogma. If you are more of a loner, then you’ll be inclined to think for yourself, then maybe join in or not. I’ve come to believe that it isn’t the topic of the dogma that calls to people, it’s the sense of belonging. Fitting in. Just a thought…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for being the first one to hop in – I was worried that my new comment stance was scaring people off. You make a good point about a sense of belonging. Perhaps that is why someone like me, an introvert and a bit of a hermit, has trouble understanding that need and the willingness to be doggedly rigid about ideas.
      I wonder, too, about how vulnerable we have to be to say we are wrong and how that vulnerability gets mocked as being wish-washy. We see it now when people are called out on things they said years ago. Instead of saying they were wrong and that they’ve changed their minds, they’ll deny or double down.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m an introvert, too. I watch people who are “good” people join causes, not because of careful consideration and heartfelt belief, but because some group they belong to tells them to join. Then these “good” people become, like you said, doggedly rigid about these ideas for fear of appearing weak within their group. It blows my mind– and makes me sad.

        [Great topic, btw. Got me thinking.]

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think I may have said this before, elsewhere if not here. My biggest issue is those who insist on seeing the world as black and white. It’s not even shades of grey, I see things in technicolor!! I feel very strongly that just because people don’t agree, doesn’t make someone right and someone wrong. It just means different, that’s all. I do believe in absolute right and wrong, but there is a lot of room for understanding and appreciation for other’s life experience and how that affects their views and beliefs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is one of the bigger problems with public discourse It really got cemented after 9/11 and the rhetoric of “you’re either with us or against us” used by President G.W. Bush. Of course, it’s not the first time that tact has been used, but certainly a memorable one in recent history.

      It’s been said before by people wiser than I that approaching each other with curiosity is helpful. I think about how we learn about each other. The best interviews I’ve ever seen or read is when the interviewer asks a few questions to get the ball rolling and the interviewee is allowed to talk freely. I think about that when talking to people I don’t agree with – what questions can I ask? And then the tricky part – listening.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your final sentence is so profound. I’m trying to stay focused on the fact that people can have their opinions. Belief is often irrational, and people simply can’t be persuaded.

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    • That belief is often irrational is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. And maybe why I used the whole organic thing as an example. So stuck on the idea of “natural” and “whole food” that I overlooked the science and commercialism. Sometimes persuasion is too lofty an expectation. Maybe simple conversation about the weather is where we start…

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  4. I love your ‘administrative note’ at the end! And your thoughtful kindness throughout. (I myself may be a thoughtful person, a deliberative person, but I am not often an notably kind person.) I appreciate your ability to bring kindness to bear on these issues. I appreciate you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Alice. Kindness is not always my first inclination. When angry, I can be quite harsh. My concern is that we have years of meanness to live and fight through and it will be exhausting. I’m already feeling the fatigue of my own constant anger.
      I read somewhere that this is how authoritarianism can win – wearing us down until we feel tired and compliant. So part of this isn’t about compassion or decency, but also about a long term commitment to civil engagement. Low burning flames instead of all-consuming ones, I suppose.

      Liked by 3 people

      • We are all having to make up new paths for ourselves, aren’t we, in this current conflagration. New ways to remain in touch with what feels truest in within us, that we may hold the line for those values outside ourselves as well. Peace and courage to you, on that journey…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “I understand why people feel so strongly on either side of the debate. That I want to stand in between them and listen with both ears, is the best I can do at this point.” Doing that much is doing a whole lot. Today, on Krista Tippett’s excellent public radio show (and podcast) “On Being,” she interviewed Congressman John Lewis about nonviolent resistance and the larger meaning of love during the Civil Rights movement. Good medicine for those of us who are called to resistance again in troubled times.

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    • I’ll have to listen to that interview. Her show is one of my favorite radio programs. I just requested several books that focused on nonviolent resistance from the library. I feel like I have a lot to learn at this point and not much time to learn it in.

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  6. Hi, Michelle. The older I get, the more I figure most people are doing the best they can with what they have. The best I can do to help the world–food, social issues, politics–is to act out of love and justice. Anger and frustration just makes me useless. Peace, John

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, exactly. Much meditation–and pick up the phone. I’ll be thinking of you and your calls as I plan mine!

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  7. Thanks for sharing – great post and thought provoking. I think with time, age, information and self-education you can form your own thoughts about most things and whether you feel you need that sense of belonging may determine if you agree with the dogma or not. I sometimes sit in between because I may agree/ disagree with both sides of the fence. When you try to view things from different perspectives, I feel that may influence you one way or the other. Most people are doing what they feel is the best – for them, their family, their environment, their health, etc.

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