Swimming In Broken Glass: Sharing opinions brings personal growth, learning

As the sanitized clich? goes, opinions are like anuses -- everyone's got one. However when an individual must polish it up for display, the situation grows more complicated. A part of oneself usually private and hidden is now thrust into the spotlight to be scrutinized by an often merciless public.

It's in this setting that a facet of the opinion shows itself. No matter how varied beliefs and views may be, one common strand runs through all of them -- everyone knows his or her cocktail of politics, religion, spirituality, attitudes, prejudices, judgments and stereotypes is the right, true one.

This personal truth resembles a giant glass jar. Each of us rests inside our own little blissful prison where the harsh realities of the world cannot invade. The view from the inside offers a distorted appearance of reality through the warped glass.

Eventually we grow so accustomed to our containers that we often don't even realize they're there. Soon the perfect prison forms -- one in which the inmate actually believes he's free when he couldn't be more restrained.

Sealed inside without fresh ideas to allow us to think, we slowly suffocate in the smoke of our own repeated rhetoric. These individuals are all too easy to identify. The stench of their own rightness clings to them as though they were a smoker. They just sit shielded in their jar sucking up the nicotine of the reinforcement of their narrow-minded views.

And oh do they delight in sitting back and blowing their smoke in our faces.

The list of jars stretches forever into the golden sunset: liberal, conservative, moderate, patriot, terrorist, Christian, atheist, Catholic, agnostic, Jew, Muslim, fundamentalist, gay, straight, black, white, Asian, Latino. To further complicate matters, multiple layers of jars blend and blur together to create unique mixtures.

Even a century ago Mark Twain was all to familiar with this concept when he said "We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles."

How can one escape the curse of the jar when the glass is so thick? The prisoner can beat his skull against the wall but all it will give him is a stabbing headache.

Then the revelation comes -- you can't get out on your own. Find someone with different views and a similar desire for freedom; roll to the highest peaks and tumble down, colliding into one another. The shattered glass cuts the flesh, painfully bringing the illuminating realities of one's true blindness.

A feeling of excitement follows as one's world expands. It's like in the film "Pleasantville" when personal rebellion unleashes a flood of colors, freeing the residents from the black and white shackles of their "perfect" existence.

Away from the comforts of home, on a campus built from the profits of the Ball brothers' glass jars, there are so many chances to smash into different realities than our own. It's in this sea of broken glass that the true adventure begins as greater dimensions of the human experience reveal themselves.

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