Open Mind

Open your mind to different people, experiences and ideas

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.                              —  Audrey Lord from Our Dead Behind Us: Poems

One of the very most important parts of growing up, of getting a great education, and of learning to think for yourself is opening your mind.  Most students begin college knowing only people who look like themselves, who think like themselves, and who do things like themselves.

Meet people who are different

The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.    —  Albert Einstein

You need to ask yourself if your mind is open to new people, new experiences and new ideas.

Here, away from your parents, away from your hometown, you will see and hopefully meet people from all over the country and hopefully from many place around the world. They may or may not look like you, dress like you. But chances are they eat different foods, they grey up with different stories, and their values and beliefs may be different.

Some students will look at these people but are afraid to actually meet and talk to them. They are missing so muchFour young women from different countries become friends in college. You should find opportunities to introduce yourself and get to know them. Find out where they are from. Ask how their country is the same and how it is different from yours. Find out what they miss most. Ask what questions they have about your country and customs.  Think about how felt, leaving your home and family to go to college. Imagine how difficult it is for those from other countries.

These four students have come from different countries. They are now friends and enjoying sharing information about their home country, about their own customs, and about their families back home. Meeting people from around the world is an important part of their education. The girls hope that, in the future, they will be able to stay in touch with each other and maybe someday have an opportunity to visit each other.

Meeting local students and learning local customs important to these students. You can share with them and learn from them at the same time. But don’t spend your whole time learning how they are different. Ask what they are studying, what classes they are taking, what problems they are having. You can even talk about cafeteria food.

You might also get to know people from your own country whose experiences are different from your. Meet people from many parts of the country. Meet people who went to schools larger than yours or smaller than yours. Meet people who grew up in big cities and those who grew up on small towns.  If your family is fairly wealthy, get to know students whose families are poor.

Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open mind.   — Malcolm Forbes

Be open to different experiences

A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it i not open.    — Frank Zappa

I was delighted to be invited to attend Jewish services with a Jewish friend and I am still grateful for the opportunity to learn about another religion.

Another college experience I recall vividly was a meal I had with a young woman from India. I was expecting curry but she served two dishes: a fairly clear red soup and a salad of cucumbers with yogurt. Today Americans are familiar with yogurt but I had never tasted it and was afraid this would be difficult. But, after tasting the soup which was the hottest (most spicy)  that I had ever tasted. I didn’t have to think twice when I ate the cucumbers and yogurt to cool off. By sheer willpower, I finished the meal. Now I wonder if she understood how hard it was for me to continue.

Seaweed salad with sesame seeds and limeYour first experience with new foods don’t need to be this difficult, but it still takes courage. Would you eat raw oysters? Squid: Octopus? What about seaweed salad? Today, many of you are probably familiar with all of these. For others, you are likely to reject new foods without trying  taste. You may even have enjoyed Seaweed Salad at your local Japanese restaurant.

The picture shows Chuka Seaweed Salad with sesame seeds and lime. It was served in a Japanese restaurant. I didn’t have to spend time getting used to it. This was one food I enjoyed from the start.

When my husband and I were part of a church in Rhode Island that was made up of large numbers of people from Cambodia and Liberia, we had many opportunities to share their food and share their style of worship.

In our travels around the world, my husband and I and our children spent eight years visiting and living in parts of Asia We got to know people well and share meals with people in Korea, Taiwan,Hong Kong, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands and more.  Some of the funny experiences involved food.

The very first place we visited was Japan and we remember clearly spending the first night in a Ryokan (a Japanese Inn) where we were expected to change into kimonos, take a Japanese bath, sleep on a futon, and eat raw fish. Americans today are familiar with sushi but Japanese food wasn’t as available then and this was the first sushi we had ever seen or eaten. We ate it and smiled. But raw fish for breakfast was a little harder. Now, of course, we enjoy sushi and I think I like to taste of raw fish better than cooked fish.

When we visited Fiji, we were served eels, and something I’d never heard of, raw sea urchins sliced open and placed before us. As we scooped the insides of the shell, it was a little disconcerting to see the sea urchin spines moving. Having eaten raw oysters in the past, we found this somewhat similar.

In the Philippines we were served Dinuguan, a soup made from a pig’s blood. The thought was unpleasant but the soup tasted good and we had it other times while we were there. And then there was balut… a hard boiled fertilized duck egg that was several days before hatching. The first crunchy bite of egg as we munched on half-formed bones and feathers was a little difficult, but it was easier the second and third time. I eventually grew to like it. The usual hard boiled egg is dry. Balut is like a hard boiled egg with chicken broth that is crunchy but tasty. Google “balut” and you’ll see some images. I don’t believe the balut I ate wasn’t nearly that close to hatching. The photographers were looking for the extreme images.

Most important is opening your mind to new ideas

A Measure of intelligence is the ability to change.    — Albert Einstein

If you are a Republican, have a serious and respectful conversation with a Democrat or Libertarian. I don’t know the equivalent in countries outside the US, but I’m sure you can find them.  If you believe in evolution, have a good conversation with someone who doesn’t.  If you are against the right to an abortion, talk to people who are for it. Learning how other people think and how they reason is part of a well-rounded education.

Vera Nazarian, in her book, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration expresses this well. I have changed her words in italics to bold print.

If you have never changed your mind about some fundamental tenet of your belief, If you have never questioned the basics, and if you have no wish to do so, then you are likely ignorant.

Before it is too late, go out there and find someone who, in your opinion, believes, assumes, or considers certain things very strongly and very differently from you and just have a basic, honest conversation.

It will do both of you good.

Your college years are the best time in your lives to reflect on your own personal beliefs: religious beliefs, political beliefs, scientific beliefs, beliefs about what is good and what is evil. It is a time to examine your prejudices and assumptions. I do not believe many things my parents believed, and our children’s beliefs are different from ours. I discuss that topic further on the page:   Discuss, Debate, Argue.

The greatest reward of an education is to be able to face the world with an open mind.                                                  — R. M. Sherfield

Yur life is limited so don’t waste it living in someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.     —  Steve Jobs

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