As 2021 comes to a close, we want to wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season and happy & healthy year to come.
We are so fortunate to have you in our lives and our community, and we want you to know we value the relationships we have with each of you.
Recently we were reminded of the parable of the elephant and the blind men, and we wanted to take a moment and share it today.
The Blind Men and the Elephant
The parable of the blind men and the elephant originated in India. It is a story about a group of blind men who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and imagine what the elephant is like by touching it.
Because an elephant is so large, each blind man is placed around the elephant but can feel only one part of it. They then describe the elephant based on their limited experience and, as you might imagine, their descriptions of the elephant are different from each other and arguments ensue.
The first man, whose hand touches the elephant’s trunk, believes that an elephant is like a snake. For another man, whose hand touches its ear, the elephant seems like a fan. To the man whose hand was upon its leg, the elephant is like a tree-trunk. The man who placed his hand upon its side said the elephant is like a wall while the man who felt its tail described it as a rope. The last man felt its tusk, stating an elephant is sharp and smooth like a spear.
The moral of the parable is that we have a tendency to claim “absolute truth” based on “our truth”—our limited, subjective experience. In addition, we tend to ignore or deny other’s experiences even though they may be equally as “true”.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”– Mark Twain
Greater than the Sum of its Parts
Maybe we can recognize that, in this very moment, we are all “blind men” struggling to make sense of something big and unfamiliar.
If we can understand that “truth” is relative to one’s own perspective, maybe we can strive to respect and learn from the beliefs and opinions of others a bit more.
Maybe it is only when we combine each individual part that we will understand the whole more clearly.
As Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. says in My Grandfather’s Blessings: “If the world is really one large elephant, the wisdom may lie in holding your part loosely and loving what you cannot understand. And in helping others, here in the dark.”