This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

April 10, 2002 - An Open Mind

Some years ago a woman who read my columns every week told me, "You and I are the only people in Douglas County with an open mind."

I grinned. She said, "No really. I always agree with you."

That tickled me, too. Why? For one thing, just because you agree with someone doesn't mean that person has an open mind; it only means you share the same opinions.

For another, in the course of writing a column, it's not unusual for me to change my own mind three or four times.

Yet, I think I DO have an open mind. Here's why: no matter how much research I've done, I always entertain the possibility that I might be wrong.

I've learned, over the years, that this is a fairly unusual characteristic. People receive or fabricate opinions early in life, and spend a sometimes astonishing amount of energy defending those opinions, whether or not there's a whole lot of evidence for them.

Or to paraphrase one of my favorite quotes, "When confronted with contrary evidence, people have two choices: change their prejudice, or try to justify it. Most folks get busy on the proof."

I'm not immune to this, of course. I do have my biases.

But back when I was still a kid, I remember a very clear dream. Some fifteen people were gathered around the table. I was one of them. Everyone (men, women, people of various races) said something, sometimes in languages I didn't speak.

Then, abruptly, we all SHIFTED. Now I was the next person, number 14 instead of 15. We went around the table again, and this time, I said what that person said the last time. When the next cycle completed, we shifted again. This went on all night.

Here's the peculiar truth of my psyche: I really can imagine waking up tomorrow in almost anybody's life.

I share this trait with all my siblings: one brother, and both sisters. I don't know where we got it -- maybe from my mother, a gifted head nurse for the Veteran's Administration. She had an unusually strong sense of empathy. I do know that whenever my siblings heard someone's life story, we all found it remarkably easy to imagine ourselves inside of it.

Like the service orientation of nursing, librarianship encourages this idiosyncrasy. Whether we're behind the circulation desk, the reference desk, or sequestered in the back room, the ability to see things from the other side means that librarians can be quick to get what you're after.

It can also be bewildering. Some people have the reassuring ability always to know what's right. They're conservative, no question. Or they're liberal, how else? Or they're Christian, or Jew, or Hindu, just as they're supposed to be. I admit that such an attitude baffles me.

To be genuinely open-minded is a lot of work. It means that you're always dredging up your hidden premises, and exposing them to contradictory evidence. It means that you always have to seriously consider the notion that you were, and might be right now, utterly mistaken. It means that even if you pick out a new belief, that might be wrong, too.

I've never met anybody who thought that sounded like fun. Except my own family.

Except librarians.

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