Friday, November 5, 2010

On the Matter of the Blind Men and the Elephant (or Donkey)

The teaching tale of The Blind Men and the Elephant feels apt today.
But finally, an old blind man came. He had left the city, walking in his usual slow way, content to take his time and study the elephant thoroughly. He walked all around the elephant, touching every part of it, smelling it, listening to all of its sounds. He found the elephant's mouth and fed the animal a treat, then petted it on its great trunk. Finally he returned to the city, only to find it in an uproar.

Each of the six young men had acquired followers who eagerly heard his story. But then, as the people found that there were six different contradictory descriptions, they all began to argue. The old man quietly listened to the fighting. "It's like a wall!" "No, it's like a snake!" "No, it's like a spear!" "No, it's like a tree!" "No, it's like a rope!"  "No, it's like a fan!"

The old man turned and went home, laughing as he remembered his own foolishness as a young man. Like these, he once hastily concluded that he understood the whole of something when he had experienced only a part. He laughed again as he remembered his greater foolishness of once being unwilling to discover truth for himself, depending wholly on others' teachings.
I'm convinced today of the greater foolishness of the leaders of both parties, who remain convinced that their own teachings are complete, and who seek always to attract followers by persuading them it's unnecessary to discover truth for yourself.

In my next two posts, why I think neither side has demonstrated that it really gets the whole message of either the 2008 or 2010 elections.

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