On the elephant story… A mental health fable

There once was a group of blind men looking for a way to describe what none of them could see.   One told the other the problem is not in our seeing but in our saying.

They chanced upon an elephant on the path.   They decided the elephant was the perfect opportunity and they decided to find a common description of what the elephant really was.   They just knew the solution to their blindness was in a common language.

One grabbed ahold of the ears and enthusiastically began to describe what the elephant was really like.

Another knew immediately be was wrong.   He had ahold of the trunk and loudly told his first friend why he was wrong.

The man that had ahold of the tail tried to get both of his friends to see the error of their ways.   They both thought he was lying and they didn’t understand  why he was trying to make trouble.

The last man had grabbed ahold of one of the elephants legs.   He didn’t understand why his friends were arguing about so many silly things.   He obviously had a hold of the big truth.

The elephant got tired of the strange loud creatures and walked on down the path wondering what these strange creatures liked so much about being loud.

The men didn’t even realize he had left.   They were too busy arguing.   Each of them knew he had found the fundamental truth of the elephant and were astounded at the blindness of their companions.   At first they thought they could get the others to accept the truth about what elephants really are but they quickly found out that wouldn’t work.   The others didn’t really want to understand after all.   They just wanted to be right too.

You wouldn’t think blind men would be able to fight but man they could and battle broke out quickly .  Blows rang out and soon everyone was battered and scarred.   They all finally walked away in disgust,  feeling angry and betrayed.   None of them could see and were soon lost wandering aimlessly and loudly about.   None of them asked for help though.   They knew people who lied about elephants couldn’t be trusted and they weren’t about to ask if any of them knew where they really were.

Years passed.  The blind men were now old and sick and dying.   They still wandered the woods aimlessly.   All of them believed if they could just find enough people who realized what elephants really were like they would no longer be lost.

The blind men finally died.   Still lost,  still angry,  still astonished at how many people thought they were right too.

An elephant and her calf came walking down the path one day and found their lifeless bodies.

The calf wanted to know what happened.

The mother was quiet for a moment.

“They were strange creatures these men.   They all thought we were just one thing and they thought the one thing they saw was all we could be.   They made up these stories and thought we were their stories.   So silly really.   How could they really believe that we were nothing but what they called us?  I just don’t understand it.   And the real tragedy was in fighting so hard to decide who we are they forgot who they were.   They really thought being right was worth going to war for.   They argued,  they fought.   They engaged in all sorts of cruelty and nastiness to each other.   And when someone said shouldn’t we treat each other better they all just sneered.   “You can’t treat some people nice.”

The calf started to cry.   He told his mom it was just all so sad.   People who tried so hard to know an elephant never knew an elephant.

Finally he said, “I think what it all means is this.   Never let the truth you seek get in the way or cause you to lose the truth of who you are and who you can become.”

And the mother smiled. 

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