There is a very popular ancient parable and a folk tale from India about six blind men and an elephant. It has several different versions, so I decided to put my own spin on it. Here’s how it goes:
Six blind men were walking down the road in a small village in India. They were thirsty so they decided to stop at a nearby river to quench their thirst. As they came near the river, they bumped into an elephant that was also drinking from the river. They were surprised and confused as to what they had bumped into.
One of the blind men touched the elephant’s trunk and told the others, “This is something soft, thick and long like a snake”.
Second man touched the elephant’s tusks and said, “No way, it’s hard, long, smooth and sharp like a spear.”
Third man touched the elephant’s feet and said, “You are both wrong. The object is hard, wide and rough like the trunk of a tree”.
Fourth man touched the elephant’s ears and said, “Actually, all three of you are wrong. The object is thin and flat, like a hand fan.”
Fifth man touched the tail and said, “It’s definitely not all of that. The object is actually thin and delicate like a rope.”
Sixth men touched the body of the elephant and said, “You must all be out of your minds. It’s some kind of a wall, hard and wide”.
Now they were even more confused. “What could it be?”, they all wondered. What could possibly be like a wall, a fan, rope, spear, tree trunk and snake? They were unable to make sense of what they had come across, so they decided to ask a passerby, “Excuse me, brother, could you please tell us what is this object right in front of us?”
“It’s an elephant”, said the passerby.
Everything made sense now.
This is such a powerful metaphor that beautifully illustrates human behavior. We can interpret it in many different ways. Here’s how I interpret it:
You might have interpreted this parable in a different way, depending upon your own unique experiences and perspective. But the gist of the parable remains the same for all i.e. we see the truth through different lenses. That’s why we shouldn’t be so quick to judge others as wrong. Instead, we should try to understand the perspective of others and then try to see the truth from their perspective. We should be flexible and willing to consider alternative beliefs, ideas and opinions and be willing to reconsider and revise our views when the change is warranted. By doing so, we can see the truth in a new light and learn a thing or two about the truth, something we were oblivious to before because it was filtered out of our lens or clouded by our own biases, assumptions and blind spots.