It can be dangerous to state things that we believe as though that’s the way it is, and by golly, that’s IT. The danger is that we might learn or experience something new, take in differing points of view, or any number of things might occur to alter our perceptions and eventually create a new “that’s the way it is”. This can result in a wide variety of consequences ranging from looking mildly foolish to being publicly exposed as a charlatan, a fraud or hypocrite.
Recently I wrote a column in which I mentioned I had given up drinking water from plastic bottles after learning that it takes 17 million barrels of crude oil to make the 29 million water bottles that we Americans buy each year. That is enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months.
I still find those numbers staggering, but I’ve had to retrace my steps a bit regarding my no longer buying bottled water. You see, ever since I discovered how much I like that vitamin-enhanced, fruit-flavored water, I’ve been hooked. I’ve also been, technically, buying bottled water again. I recycle, but in my column I clearly pointed out that it took petroleum to get to and from the recycling center, as well as to actually recycle the bottles. That’s all true. And I am fully conscious of those numbers each time I unscrew a bottle of my new favorite beverage, but I still buy it. I like it. It tastes good, it’s good for me and it makes me feel good.
This isn’t the first time I’ve drawn a line in the sand about something and then had to go back and, like a cat in a litter box, quickly cover it up. You may see this as hypocrisy, and if you must put a label on it, I suppose that one is as good and accurate as any. However, I prefer to see this as cultivating a flexible mind. I believe it is my right to be able to change my mind, especially when there is new information to consider. I hadn’t yet tried this newfangled vitamin water when I wrote that column. Now that I have, I have decided to make an allowance for the container in which it is delivered.
My friend Robin recently questioned how people can “make up their mind.” I quickly suggested we use bright red lipstick and blue eye liner. Robin didn’t respond to my witty comeback, possibly distracted by all the eye rolling and head shaking he was doing. But, he was, after all, trying to be serious. And when you ponder how it is we can “make up our minds” it does sound quite rigid and unforgiving, doesn’t it? Of course, we probably all have some instances that we could share when we “made up our mind” about something only to have it changed by something else. As a kid, I decided I hated Brussels sprouts. I thought they were vile and I swore I would never eat one. Then one day I tried one that had been lightly steamed and marinated in a delicious balsamic vinegar dressing. It was amazing! Come to find out I do like Brussels sprouts; at least when they are prepared that way.
I changed my mind about Brussels sprouts and there have been many other times when I’ve done the same thing. Maybe I’ve met someone and it was obvious from the first moment that we didn’t care for one another. Then, over time we got to know each other better and we become fast friends. Of course the opposite also happens. We meet someone who we are quite smitten with, only to find out later that smitten has turned to smiting.
It’s a good thing to be open to changing our minds. My friend Darlene taught me many things, one of those was the importance of being able to “stake your claim” where your beliefs were concerned. But even more important, she taught me, was to always be open to, and reserve the right to “move your stake.” That’s how I see my recent backtracking on the bottled water issue, and so many others.
I don’t believe making up my mind is something I can do just once and not ever go back and evaluate if it still makes sense to me, if it is something about which I still feel passionate, or if it is where I continue to want my mind set. I don’t see it as being hypocritical or wishy washy, or anything negative at all.
I see it as simply staking my claim and then having the right to move my stake.