There is an old story about an elephant and the blind men who touch it at different places to ‘perceive’ what it is. Each blind man comes up with his own ‘interpretation’ of what he touches and claims it as ‘absolute’ truth. They argue from their own stand-points unwilling as well as incapable of understanding the other ‘versions’ of the same ‘reality’.
हाथी है या कोई दीवार
दांत हैं ये या कोई तलवार
आँखों और बिन आँखों वाले
सच्चाई कर रहे टटोल
आधा सच और आधा झूठ
आधी छाँव और आधी धूप
ये भी संभव वो भी संभव
सत्य-असत्य के बहुत हैं रूप
सीमीत दृष्टिकोण हैं लेकिन
दम्भ हमारा अपरिमित
That is what we are – a conglomeration of subjective realities, perceived truths and restricted understandings. We fight for what we ‘think’ is the only absolute reality because at some point, it is impossible for us to step over and reach beyond that point.
There is a very interesting incident in the candid and touching memoir titled An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison. The memoir chronicles the author’s struggles with manic-depressive illness. During the time-period when she is fine, she gives therapy to a blind man. After many sessions, she starts getting the feeling of what it is to be blind. She feels that she ‘understands’ it completely. One day, he asks him to come to his tutorial session in the blind reading room. Jamison reaches the place and realizes “with horror that the room was almost totally dark. It was dead silent, no lights were on, and yet there was half a dozen students bending over their books or listening intently to the audiotapes…”. It was “one of those moments when you realize that you haven’t understood anything at all, that you have had no real comprehension of the other person’s world.”
Can we go beyond our own subjectiveness to make sense of the world in ways that might be incompatible or even contrary to our previously held notions? I think it might be possible but very difficult. For we are better off in our comfort-zones. We do not want to give ourselves an uneasy moment.
That is why ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ will remain matters of contention and debate. We will always see the elephant in parts, because we are all blind in one way or the other.