Open Minds, A Preface to Morals
by Bill Purdin

They're Hard Enough To Find, Don't Make Them Hide From Us.

Open minds are the most beautiful things that humanity has to offer itself. An open mind takes years of practice, and a lot of effort every day, every minute. It's human nature to think that what we think is what everyone should think, but it's also human nature to listen and to think independently. But people like to ask questions to get just the answers we want. People often oppose ideas they didn't think of ... just because they didn't think of it.

Many people, not all, are vapidly pursuing agendas of their own, without regard to societal concerns or to implications that their actions carry with them. Even within their own communities, their own families, these agendas proceed relentlessly; perhaps unknowingly, but that is worse than intentionally in effect because unaware selfishness gallops where directed intent would intuit hesitation. The motivation isn't always personal promotion or aggrandizing power, although sometimes it is, but mostly it's just more like being right, or appearing to be right that that drives its aggression. The charismatic tendancies of these people and the noise with which they conduct their affairs almost always attracts people who will agree with them because that is immediately rewarded. Obsequiousness is in the front seat, intellect is left to fend for itself in the rear view mirror. Closed minds close in, lead nowhere, surround us all and create stagnation and lethargy. And they never, ever give up.

In politics, it's a hopelessness that sets in. In business, it's lack of innovation. In marriage, it's estrangement. In the classroom, it's inequity. In parenting, it's favoritism. This last one is the worst one. Because each child, swaddled in a parent's unconditional love can prosper in unique and individual ways. In an unfair parental setting this potential is darkened, never to be known in its potential effulgence: a mind closed instead of opened. The nadir of bad parenting. All of the problems that plague of civilizations began, and begins, with parents. The secret of good parenting: create open minds.

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When I was a boy growing up in Marblehead, we lived at 12 Gregory Street and there was a pier out back into the harbor. It wasn't really much of a pier really, but Dad had jury-rigged up a rope-pull to the mooring for my little boat. I can remember getting up at 5:00 a.m., no breakfast, no coffee, just dressed and out the door. Before you could say, "good morning," I was out there in the harbor tooling around, having a Marblehead ball of a boyhood while my parents were still sleeping in their bed. This morning it was pea soup out there, and very quiet, muffled like, deep, deep fog. All I could see was the fog all around me. I was going slow, sort of feeling my way through the water. Sometimes I had to push off of boats that suddenly appeared. I could hear the launch at the Transportation Company starting up, so I went in that direction, but in the thick fog I never reached it, becoming happily disoriented. It was a really deep and confusing fog. I held up my hand in front of my face and moved it away. At about 18 inches it disappeared. Then I noticed I couldn't see the bow of the still moving boat. Pea soup, as they say. I was going as slow as my 5.5 horsepower Johnson outboard engine would go when I smashed into the silky smooth side of a beautiful white sloop sleeping in at its mooring. The damage was minimal, becuase the rails of my boat were padded, but the shock of impact was horrifying. I was thrown forward into the bilge, banging my head on the little forward seat. Lost in the foggy bottom of the harbor, only 12 years old, my leg was bleeding, my pride was bruise-red with embarrassment, and for some completely irresponsible reason I was laughing hysterically. The engine was still in forward so we were off again, careening off the sloop. Worried about hitting something else, I jumped up grabbed the throttle extension handle, reached back and put it in reverse momentarily, then into neutral bringing the little craft to a stop, sort of. The fog thickened. I looked at my leg, no problem. The boat and I drifted along, alone in the harbor somewhere. It was quiet, the only sound my own excited breathing and the softly idling engine. Then there was another sound. Little waves on seaweed covered rocks. I could smell the seaweed. Then slowly something became visible. It was the rocks off the Corinthian Yacht Club. I put the little engine in gear and motored carefully until I could see them, then over to the dock. I found a place to tie up and went looking for the snack bar and breakfast, as if nothing out of the oridnary had happened. I could usually talk the chef or the waitress into giving me something. The day was just starting and look at what had already happened, the fun I had already had. Growing up in Marblehead ... it teaches you to always keep an open mind.

-- From the Publisher's Comment, Marblehead Magazine, Volume XII, Number 1, Spring/Summer 1993