To be open-minded is not to be a pacifist. It’s something harder and more important — something that entertains a wide range of possibilities. Evolution is an ongoing process that requires sentient beings to weigh reality according to the data. Put emotional or moral opinion above the data, and one risks abandoning evolution for dogma.
The physical paradigm, of which we are part, is based on function. Its existence relies on the successful and inventive and forever-adapting interaction of its constituent parts.
This interaction expresses itself through collaboration and competition. Sometimes things come together in harmony, each element retaining a little of itself. Other times one side dominates the other, taking over. Systems advance, retreat, change and mutate in an evolutionary cascade that leaves behind it a vast trail of processed output, on which the few and seminal success stories of the world hinge.
Dress it up as much as we like, the name of the game is winning. Even in collaboration, the aim is for things to work, function, last (as opposed to failing and being replaced). Winning means prevailing, enduring, adapting, surviving, and generally improving on oneself and the surrounding environment.
Winners, innovators, and paradigms that endure in ways that leave their mark across the ages come in all forms and guises. Sometimes they’re openly violent and destructive, impressing themselves on the horizon with force — other times they come bearing the message of non-violence, setting the course via uncompromising, inspiring stoicism. Whatever the case, they all carry — and operate according to — principles that are conducive to success and survival.
Sad but true, but mostly true. Like it or not, it takes both violence and peace to make things happen.
For every Gandhi and MLK who succeeded in their non- violent approach there were a million who failed. Life is larger than the occasional sages that pepper it.
Since everything under the sun has been said about the attributes of peace, let’s talk about violence, the maligned part of the formula. Without violence, nothing can happen, no idea can be carried forth. The well-meaning, soft-spoken champions of life can only go thus far. For every Gandhi and MLK who succeeded in their non-violent approach there were a million who failed. Life is larger than the occasional sages who pepper it — and more complicated.
But care must be taken when applying violence; it’s no panacea, no matter how indispensable and omnipresent it is. One doesn’t pick up a hammer and pound the world into perfection. For every Alexander who conquered the world, exporting his principles by force and prowess, there were a million who fell short, laying everything to ruin. It takes all sorts, the right sorts, to make things happen. Success, be it inspired or enforced upon, is rare, and there’s no perfect way to achieve it, no absolutely righteous way to exercise it. It all depends on the circumstances, on the actors and their surroundings, on what needs to be done at any given point in time.
The premise holds across time. Part of what one deems civilized right now, in this day and age — the ‘civil way’ of doing things — is nothing other than a civilization’s latest take on how to exist more successfully. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a valuable tool, helping humanity cut down on whatever proves to be a wasteful manner of conducting itself over time, both as individuals and as organizations. It short-sells the conflagration embedded in life, going long on smoother, macro-focused investments. It promotes the advantages of open communication and information exchange over mindless conflict. Humanity would do well to embrace this creed, for what it’s worth, because it seems to be a great improvement on yesterday’s workings.
Part of what one deems civilized right now, in this day and age — the ‘civil way’ of doing things — is nothing other than a civilization’s latest take on how to exist more successfully.
But let’s reiterate that nothing is set in stone and that conflict is indispensable to life. If it weren’t, humans would have remained frozen inside a dated state of being, never having fought their way out of it, never having developed into the sentient beings they are today. There’s always a fresher way of going about things, despite the certainty of those who believe they’ve discovered the meaning of life in religious, quasi- religious, or secular dogma. Reality hinges on both complementary and antithetical interactions alike, and the truly aspirational i.e. the sentients (ever noticed how this word sounds like science?) have to fight for the best idea available at any given point in time. Being solely and fanatically FOR the complementary approach, looking to sugarcoat and pacify one’s way ahead, all the while neglecting and demonizing competition and combat, is as one-sided, blinkered, hypocritical and self-defeating as the notions its advocates try to resist. Not to mention pretentious and boring.
In other words, there’s a time and place to be accommodating and a time and place to stand up, get mad and confront the troublesome and problematic aspects of life that loom ahead, no matter how reluctant one may be to do so, or how ugly the situation may get. People who fail to see the need to get their hands dirty, sticking to a prim and proper approach to life — who place morality above outcome without allowing space for pragmatic considerations — risk everything for nothing. They have a narrow sense of the world, an arrested understanding of history, a hijacked soul that speaks only the language of righteousness. Their ‘moral’ sense of comfort blindsides them, forbidding them from identifying the right response.
Call it spiritual masturbation, whereby the search for the righteous course of action — be it religious, secular, or a combination thereof — brings about an unhealthy dependance on self-serving pleasure that comes from advocating dogma, and which is of no consequence to reality in the long term. Despite the impressive way with which its advocates carry it and the nobility they project, its primary outcome is the straightjacketing of all those who practise it, whose grand fantasies yield to a limited and irrelevant scope down the line.
Open-mindedness is the ability to find the most appropriate solution to a problem at any given point in time.
A concept that involves more than noble words. Open-mindedness is the ability to accommodate conflicting and inconvenient points of view, no matter their source, motivation, or direction. One of the toughest businesses around, it transcends people and creeds, defining itself across the ages through continual iterations, each one different than the rest, each of them coming together in a long chain of interactions that determine — and are determined by — the dynamic construct of life.
To grasp the profundity of this setup and tap the richness of reality, people have to be broad enough to entertain all possible outcomes, all angles and probabilities, bound by nothing other than their commitment to find the right solution to a specific problem.
In other words, open-mindedness is the ability to find the most appropriate solution to a problem at any given point in time, as well as down the line, irrespective of creed or prior deliberation. The rest is dogma. Unreasonable, non-adaptable, limited dogma.
Here’s to enduring success, the only moralism that matters down the line.
From the collection of writings EON: THE ANGRY COMING OF AGE