Monday, February 2, 2015

No one really knows anyone / The Blind Men and the Elephant

No one can really know anybody, however much we may claim to know them. We can only look at things from a certain angle. We can never see anything as whole, in totality, at any given time. We see and judge everything according to our own perception. We label people as we see or happen to know them in certain situations.
We can never know anyone completely because of our own limitations.

The wise looks from every angle and knows that no one is all good or all bad; completely righteous or completely evil. Knowing that no one is perfect, they do not pass judgment.

Remember the ancient story of six blind men and the elephant told by Buddha?
The same story has been told with small variations, in almost every cultural tradition.
Here is a version in poetry form by John Godfrey Saxe.

The Blind Men and the Elephant


It was six men of Hindustan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
Though all of them were blind,
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! But the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand, 
And felt about the knee
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he:
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "Even the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!"

And so these men of Hindustan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

                            By John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)












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