Open minds may lead to changed view, ideas — a worthy process

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at

He was a famous actor, the story goes. He had just turned 55 and was being interviewed on a morning talk show. He was asked if he feared old age and death.

“No,” he said.

The interviewer droned on with questions, but finally asked one that sparked the interest of my father, the story’s author. He couldn’t remember the exact question but it probed the actor’s philosophy and whether he considered himself a liberal or conservative.

“I haven’t changed my views in 20 years,” the actor declared.

And with that, my father mentally came out of his chair, he told us, and hollered, “No wonder you don’t fear old age and death. You’re already dead!”

That story gives current credence to the old concept that some people die at 40 and are buried, and others die at 40 but aren’t buried for another 40 years.

I have no issue with the actor’s statement about not fearing old age and death. That’s good, honorable and should be the view of every person who is living fully all the way to grave and beyond.

But to be static for 20 years! That’s a living death, void of growth, oblivious to new ideas, new insights, resistant to progress, denying innovations, and suffering from rigor mortis of soul and mind.

Perhaps the actor was not married. Perhaps he had no children. Perhaps he had no meaningful relationships at work or in the community that moved him outside of his comfort zone of unchanged views.

How safe.

How shallow.

Being married to a person affects our views, or it generates a chronic discomfort that can destroy the relationship.

Living with children, parenting even a little bit, affects our views, or it creates a disconnect that prevents the growth of family.

And building relationships in the workplace or community affects our views, or we may miss the joy of new friends, becoming isolated and alone.

Teflon-coated minds that deflect new ideas or views can void our potential for empathy and perspective, key ingredients for developing a deep respect for all of humanity.

The courage of one’s convictions (views) means, as my father often said, that we have the courage to take them out from under the glass case, dust them off and examine them every so often.

“The unexamined life,” Socrates suggests, “is not worth living.”

Granted, that’s a bit bleak, but the message is clear.

Life is not static. People move in and out of our lives as do the seasons and stages of our aging process.

Our world is not static. Global forces routinely touch our local lifestyles and the daily choices we have.

As the election year unfolds and ideas and opinions ricochet between and within our candidates, we may need to lower our mental shields and re-examine our well-guarded views.

For help, we could edit Niebuhr’s serenity prayer. God, help me change the views I need to change, to hold fast to those I ought not change and the wisdom to know the difference.