Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Opinions: Everyone Has Them


I once heard of the experience a university professor had, who went to the Japanese master, Nan'in, to learn of Zen. Upon allowing his guest an audience, Nan'in served tea. He poured his visitors cup full continuing to pour as it overflowed. The professor watched until he could restrain himself no more exclaiming, It is overfull. No more will go in!

Like this cup, Nan'in said, you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?

Like Nan'in, Ive encountered the problem of teaching someone whose opinions and speculations have interfered with their ability to grasp the topic of discussion. However, for the most part I am grateful for the diverse opinions and insights people share. We all have opinions. Some are more firmly based in reality while others seem to be far off in the deep end. To some opinions we hold with an iron grip while of others we are less certain and are more tentative in our conviction. It is true; varying opinions can foster the most eye-opening and interesting conversations. In fact, sometimes talking with people that only agree with everything you say can become boring and predictable. Its important to move beyond that yes sir! mentality, the choir seat practitioner. There is so much to learn, waiting to be discovered, we only harm ourselves when we do not stretch beyond what we think we already know. This is certainly where the passion resides! I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more, feel more, and understand more through open dialogue with those who do not share my perspective.

I truly enjoy conversations that help open my eyes to new ideas and new perspectives. We live our lives looking at the world through very limited, prejudiced and closed perspectives. It is not possible to get past these boundaries alone. I am grateful for people who are willing to share their own views in a manner that helps me to see previously unknown perspectives.

How boring would life be if we all saw everything in the same way! How dull, indeed! I already know what I think and why I think it. Although it can be frustrating at times, many times talking with someone who just does not see life the same way I do helps me understand the mistakes of my own theories. Sometimes I am exposed to new thoughts I have never even considered previously. It is through conversing with people who hold a different viewpoint I can recognize the weaknesses in my own logic. I am grateful for these opportunities.

Opinions are definitely not in short supply, everyone has them. Sometimes it is just the best possible solution to find someone whose opinions do not mirror our own.

I have sat down with people to watch a professional sport being broadcast on TV. Fans of one team root while the fans of the other jeer. How fantastic and lively that experience becomes! Still, no one feels like they are being attacked. It's just a matter of perspective as to which team is better.

I think much of our personal philosophies are very similar to the way people choose a favorite sports team. Taking the time to speak with others about our feelings, about our politics, about our philosophical commitments, opens us up to a few things. First, we have the opportunity to share the reasoning behind our decisions. Second, we hear about another perspective. Third, we are confronted with the weaknesses and strengths of our own arguments.

It is through recognizing the weaknesses in my perspectives that I can move to make improvements or outright reject what I might have believed to be true. I am grateful for these opportunities. Is it not just as important to reject untruths as it is to strengthen our understanding of truth?

I am grateful for eye-opening conversations, for opportunities to improve my perspective, and improve the strength of the logic I use to support my perspective. I am grateful for eye-opening conversations that help me see new things that I might not have considered on my own. Opinions: Everyone has them and I am thankful that they do.
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