From the Board: May 2019

The theme for May is “curiosity” – a strong desire to know or learn something.  When I read this definition, I thought I could see an immediate connection between curiosity and open-mindedness. I had to see whether others found a similar connection.

The website, SelfGrowth.com’s, contributor Rikky Maas observes,

When you’re curious about something, you keep an open mind. Being curious is a state of wonder, in which you look for answers about the unknown. Asking questions about things is the direct opposite of judging things. Imagine how much kinder the world would be if everybody went ‘Ah what’s this? How does that work? What can this do?’ instead of ‘I like this, I don’t like that, that’s stupid’.

When you’re curious, you’re okay with not knowing. You embrace a certain insecurity, and it takes strength to do so. It’s much easier to hide behind fact, opinion or thought, whether false or true. You have to be okay with being vulnerable. It takes tremendous courage to show yourself unknowing. It takes courage to have no belief to hold on to.

One of our UU congregations in Atlanta cited Todd Kashdan, PhD, professor of psychology at George Mason University and author of, “Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life”, who says that a lack of curiosity is a breeding ground for:

  • Stereotyping and discrimination, that in the extreme leads to hatred and even violence;
  • Inflated confidence and ignorance that leads to poor decisions;
  • Dogmatism and rigid thinking, which is the opposite of psychological flexibility.

Those are certainly characteristics of the closed-minded, aren’t they?  Unfortunately, many faith traditions tread dangerously close to encouraging or even enforcing close-mindedness by requiring members to accept what they are told without critical thought or challenge, and to hold belief(s) without evidence.

We can be proud that UUism encourages curiosity and open-mindedness.  Consider two of our seven principles:

  1. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  2. The inherent worth and dignity of every person. (Note that we do not say, “every UU person”!)

The first strongly encourages curiosity.  The second requires open-mindedness.  We cannot see the worth and dignity of people that we have judged to hold wrong values or beliefs or simply to be “too different” from ourselves.

One of the things I have loved most about this congregation from the time I joined over 15 years ago is how unflaggingly kind, smart, and well informed the people are. This wellspring of virtues truly comes from our values for open-mindedness and its twin, curiosity.

Melissa Martinson
Member, UUCM Board of Trustees

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