Friday, March 03, 2006


A few weeks ago I read a two or three related blogposts that have been clanging around in my head off and on ever since. These posts and the thoughts they generated have produced a brand new dish.

So sit down, Friend, at my table. Tonight I am serving a hearty stew based on a quote that these bloggers attributed to G. K. Chesterton. To this healthy stock I added a generous portion of a post from Brandywine Books and an insightful and though-provoking quote from Anthony Esolen at Touchstone Magazine's Mere Comments. I added plenty of coarsely-chopped ideas from a post on open-mindedness by Sherry at Semicolon and tossed in my synopsis, synthesis, summary, and extensions. Finally I seasoned the concoction with a dash of speculation and rumination and additional related quotations. These ingredients have simmered together long enough to marry the flavors. Bon Appetit.

First take a large bite of the Chesterton quotation that began this stew:

Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
Now spoon up an exceptionally articulate quotation by Esolen on the implications of having an open mind. The italics are mine.

The purpose of an open mind, says Chesterton, is to shut it on something true. And that shutting the mind upon truth opens us up to possibilities, or to further truths, that we had not suspected before. It is in the quest for knowledge as it is in matters of love: just as no one can wholly love another who keeps an escape hatch open, who considers it possible that not-loving might
be a better option, so the relativist or the indifferentist keeps all doors open by neglecting to enter any of them. He prides himself on a radical opennness which is really refusal and timidity. But to him who knocks, it shall be opened. Enter that first room of truth, enter it without the constant glance backwards that keeps your feet fixed close to the door, and you will find that this is a mansion that never ends.
How much of my open-mindedness is just the "keeping of feet fixed close to the door" or "keeping an escape hatch open" or "considering that 'whatever' might be a better option"? By extension, these authors suggest that real discoveries can only be made when we accept a truth fully, move our feet away from the doorway of a different reality, stop glancing backwards, and actually enter that first room of truth. Therefore, it is the closing of our minds (around a solid truth) that actually opens them to real understanding. What a conundrum!

Related (?) quotes:

"A great many open minds should be closed for repairs."

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought."

"We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself."

"The man who insists upon seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides. Accept life, and you must accept regret."

"Genius - To know without having learned; to draw just conclusions from unknown premises; to discern the soul of things."

"The self-explorer, whether he wants to or not, becomes the explorer of everything else. He learns to see himself, but suddenly, provided he was honest, all the rest appears, and it is as rich as he was, and, as a final crowning, richer."

Note: The Chesterton quote verified at Quoteworld.

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