Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Elephant and the Blind Men

The other day I was out for a walk, and the words of a poem I once read popped into my head. Now, I haven't thought about the rhyme in many years. I learned the poem in (I think) the fourth grade at Tarpey Elementary School, and I'm pretty sure I haven't seen it since.

Perhaps you know the composition. It's about six blind men from Indostan (the former name of an area of South Asia) who all encounter different parts of the same elephant. Since none of the men can see, they are dependent upon their sense of touch to gain understanding of their surroundings. The man who feels the side of the elephant proclaims, "God bless me, but the elephant is very like a wall!"

The second man feels the sharp tusk and declares, "Tis wonder of an elephant is very like a spear!" The other men are equally sure their observations are true descriptions of the mammal. Depending on what part of the animal the men are touching, it is "a snake", "a tree", "a fan", or "a rope".

Each of the six men were more positive than the one before them that they were right, and each made his point sure and strong. The poem ends with this line: "Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!"

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about how small, but false accusations, have devastating effects.

I don't blame the people who passed judgment on me, as they were–for the most part–operating in good faith. They BELIEVED they had all the necessary facts to make an assessment of my family, my life, and me.

I wonder if the six men of Indostan were ever able to set aside insistent pride and "see" the elephant for what it truly was.

Several months ago I sat in a room with Tom, a counselor, and a family member with whom we all hoped to reconcile. The counselor asked me to tell my story. Oh, I'd done this so many times before and I ached at the thought of "living" through the sadness again. But I did.

I cried.

The therapist turned to the family member. "What is your response?"

My relative smiled.

"Liz..." She paused. She smiled.

"Liz..." Pause. Smile. "...embellishes."

I was devastated.

The story elements she thought I "embellished" were completely unembellished! She, however, chose to see only pieces of the whole picture and therefore her picture was VERY different from mine.

Let's all work together to see and appreciate all the parts of the elephant. The big picture might be far more cool and impressive than a small snapshot of a portion could ever be on its own.

"Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!"

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