Exploring Human Potential

7 & 7: Open vs. Closed


It is a natural impulse, a protective impulse of individuals, families and societies to close ranks and erect walls. The real risk in this behavior for the individual is the limits it imposes on information exchange and personal growth. Not hearing provides momentary comfort, sparing the individual of criticism that may be painful. But openness is also a positive stimulus for growth. The family is a good place to practice openness, to reject simple mind control and intimidation, to listen to the young and old. Openness, learned inside the family, can be exercised outside the family, and be expressed as tolerance and reaching out to experience the richness of other cultures and approaches. We are all members of the human family. Democracy seeks out opposition for its balancing effect, for the discourse it provokes and the micro-revolutions it assures as a hedge against tyranny and the danger of accumulated unwanted frustrations that might be harnessed by extremists. Extremists’ major danger is their fundamental intolerance directed at citizens rather than ideas. Our citizens strength is their constant personal growth, inseparable from the daily exposure to the messy, unpredictable, and surprising array of diversity. Take all this away and both sides of life look pretty much the same. Staleness sets in with weakness close behind.


Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.
Robert Frost
I am not so much concerned with the right of everyone to say anything he pleases as I am about our need as a self-governing people to hear everything relevant.
John F. KennedyWhen three people call you an ass, put on a bridle.
Spanish proverb

Everyone likes to think that he has done reasonably well in life, so that it comes as a shock to find our children behaving differently. The temptation is to tune them out; it takes much more courage to listen.
John D. Rockefeller, III

We are now at the point where we must decide whether we are to honour the concept of a plural society which gains strength through diversity, or whether we are to have bitter fragmentation that will result in perpetual tension and strife.
Earl Warren

In a democracy, the opposition is not only tolerated as constitutional, but must be maintained because it is indispensable.
Walter Lippman

What is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.
Robert F. Kennedy

He that has seen both sides of fifty has lived to little purpose if he has no other views of the world than he had when he was much younger.
William Cowper

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