Story of the Week: The Blind Men and an Elephant (Copied from wikipedia)
The earliest versions of the parable of blind men and an elephant are found in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain texts, as they discuss the limits of perception and the importance of complete context. The parable has several Indian variations, but broadly goes as follows:
A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. The first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said, “This being is like a thick snake.” For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.
In some versions, the blind men then discover their disagreements, suspect the others to be not telling the truth and come to blows. In some versions, they stop talking, start listening and collaborate to “see” the full elephant. In another version, a sighted man enters the parable and describes the entire elephant from various perspectives, the blind men then learn that they were all partially correct and partially wrong. While one’s subjective experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth.
The parable has been used to illustrate a range of truths and fallacies; broadly, the parable implies that one’s subjective experience can be true, but that such experience is inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth.
Pattern that has been cropping up again and again in my life
Over the past year or so, I have encountered and or interacted with quite a few people online, either via email, text, instagram, Facebook, etc, before meeting them in person. Very often, in this initial online encounter, something about the person bothered me. I might have found their instagram posts egotistical, their email language sloppy, their texts unclear, etc. This initial encounter often made me dislike the person, and assume that I wouldn’t like them if we met in person. However, upon meeting, I almost always ended up liking them. These instances have led me to believe that a good portion of the anger that currently seems so rampant in society stems from the fact that we spend so much time seeing little bits of others online, instead of spending time with them face to face.
Quotes of the Week
I am interested in capital T truth. Truth that is true for every person, regardless of what they may think, believe, or feel.
If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.
- The Dalai Lama
As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.
- Marianne Williamson