Blind Men and the Elephant

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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.

 Linking to #Indispire153

34 thoughts on “Blind Men and the Elephant

  1. We all have our own perspectives. Well, that’s fine and totally acceptable, however, the trouble arises when we consider our perspective gospel and refuse to consider any other views. We try to foist our own view on others.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your take on this line of thought – its true we dont see things in complete entirety of a perspective and only our own view point matters to us. If only we could learn to differentiate, I guess then we wont be seeing the barrage of meaningless opinions being paraded in social media on current affairs whether to matter to us or not- like the Trump issue! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. We fight… We argue… thinking we know it all… But no one cares to find out what’s it’s like from the other side. Our ego contributes to the blindness. This is an excellent article… Thoughtfully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Truth is subjective so we all interpret situations according to our own perspective. But the problem arises when we impose our viewpoint and diktats on others.
    Again a brilliant post from you Sunaina. The Hindi verse is so meaningful and wise that it add charm to the ‘all the more strong post ‘ :).

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What one perceives is what one believes it to be.. irrespective of what it actually is. Our life has this become a life of contradictions. If only people understand that there could be another perspective such as these…. Life would be so much easier.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We all have different needs, different perspectives, and thus different ways for understanding and describing our experiences. That’s why we rarely have the same interpretation of a common experience.And that is because we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. Thought provoking post, Sunaina!

    Liked by 1 person

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