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?