I recently had a wonderful conversation on this topic. It is something that constantly preoccupies me, as an educator, as an event organiser and as a human being trying to be, you know, a better human. I do consider myself not only tolerant, but on a path to being forever open and embracing of different people and different ways of thinking. I try my best to accept others, as they are, even if I may not agree with them.
But I often hear people talking about being open minded or see it in their dating profiles: looking for open minded people. Which is a really nice thing to aspire to, for yourself, and to seek out in others. But it does make it sound like open mindedness is this glorious, clear destination to a golden badge you can achieve. And I don’t believe it is.
Because openness and tolerance are most easily achieved when we are confronted with predictable situations. And we often find ourselves in predictable situations, where even the unfamiliar element is not completely unexpected. Whenever we meet strangeness or difference that is somewhat familiar, it is easy to be tolerant. If we happen to personally know and like someone with those differences, then our job is tenfold easier. I have come to believe that being open and tolerant is a never-ending journey. You have to navigate options and situations that are so vastly different from what you know that you cannot even imagine what, why and how.
Despite considering myself more open minded than most, I am constantly faced with the circumstances of others, that I could not have even considered. Like the guy who lives in an area so remote, he will never get to experience his sexual desires. Like the person with a disability who appreciates the help, but ends up constantly tired of people offering to do everything for them. Because it makes them feel more disabled than their disability. Like the person whose fetish is so taboo that they are afraid to speak of it even in the most kink-friendly spaces. I try to always keep in mind that I will never understand everyone and even if I hear them out, I will never actually get to be in their shoes to really see what it’s like.
In a way, openness and tolerance is a path of sincere curiosity and as little judgement as possible when faced with the biggest ”what the fuck”s that life throws at you. And it does help if you accept that right now, right in this moment, you do not know everything there is to know. Right now, you cannot understand all of the motivations of all of the people. Right now there may be persons who are close to you who might be experiencing hardship or unique circumstances that they are afraid to bring up. And it is especially helpful if you accept that the world is filled with individuals so unique, that no matter how hard you try and no matter how open you are, there is always a fresh new ”oh, really?!” right around the corner.