Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Blind Men and the Elephant

As parables go - or is it fables - The Blind Men and the Elephant is one of my favourites. Whether the narrative version or John Godfrey Saxe's entertaining poem, the tale speaks a deep truth - the secret of great doggerel:

It was six men of Indostan
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 point being that we approach the great beast - the thing we want to understand from different perspectives and, as these things are, each person's understanding is true until the game changes to extrapolation. At this time, we find that the description is false - it is not so. That single blind man clasping the tail, the ear or the trunk cannot comprehend the magnitude of creation - yet we set about doing so, content in our limited knowledge (or rather the knowledge revealed to us as absolute truth even though we know it is limited).

We will go on arguing with other blind men who do not have the joy of revelation - who foolishly grasp the ear, or the trunk, or the tail. What would they know about the truth.

What would they know...


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