Fight biased thinking and cast a wide learning net. The wider the net, the more knowledge you gain.
By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
The beginner's mind is an attitude of mental nakedness: eager and open, lacking in any preconceptions. Even when dealing with a familiar subject, a beginner's mind remains receptive. You know what you know, but you don't know what you don't. The aim of the beginner's mind is to fill that gap.
Education is the acquiring of new information; this takes listening and thinking. "How do I feel about this information?" "Does this change anything I already believe?" "If I disagree, how and why do I disagree?" The beginner's mind is essential to democracy, a system where parties can and are allowed to disagree. The opposite is authoritarianism.
In a town hall, President Barack Obama said this of higher education:
To put this into perspective, we must look to Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Obama writes:
The struggle is to dismiss those who are not like us: do not think like us or look like us.
On being well-rounded, Obama said:
On broadening horizons, Obama said:
The beginner's mind, shoshin (初心), is a Zen Buddhist concept. When we take age-old wisdom, it becomes abstract over time because we lose context. For it to be useful, we must define it in contemporary terms. President Obama's explanation of education is the beginner's mind in modern language. The essence remains true: fight biased thinking and cast a wide learning net. The wider the net, the more knowledge you gain. The tendency will be to head out with a small hoop net, and since it is convenient to carry and easy to fill, we will think it should be easy, and that there isn't much fish to catch. If we catch just one fish, we will be convinced we caught the only fish in the sea. We will think we are a genius when we are only just a fool.
Useful Companions (Improve Your Education and This Site by Buying a Book):
- Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind - Shunryu Suzuki
- President Barack Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, puts into context his vision of reconciling two different worlds
- The Unfettered Mind - Takuan Soho