A long time ago a Paulist priest told me an allegorical story about and an elephant and six blind men. Yesterday I discovered that the legend originated in India among the Jainists. Funny how universal truth is not limited by creed.
Here's the story:
Six blind men stumble through the jungle and run smack dab into an elephant.
(Okay, may as well fess up right now. This tale is going to be told in redneck-ese because, well, because I'm a redneck and I'm the one doing the telling this time around)
So. Back to the hot, sweaty jungle and the six lost blind men. Earl reaches up and runs his hands over the elephant's ear.
"Jumpin' Jehosephat," Earl declares. "This creature is like a leathery fan."
"Not a chance," says Bubba from the back of the elephant. "This animal is like a snake with a tuft of coarse hairs where its head should oughta be."
"What's the matter with you two?" asks Billy Bob from his position at one of the elephant's back legs. "This here critter is like nothing so much as a pillar."
Beau, the oldest of the group, strokes the elephant's trunk and declares with authority, "This animal is sinewy and strong and it's movement is like that of a python."
From the side of the pachyderm, Jimmy John exclaims, "When I lay my head against it's surface I hear the rumbling of a far away train."
With his hands wrapped firmly around a tusk, Tiny, the largest of the group, insists, "The animal is like a sword. Hard with a strong point at the tip."
The six blind men begin squabbling among themselves, each insisting that the other's have missed the very essence of the animal and only they understand the true nature of the creature. Before long, the elephant, bored with the process and one suspects a little sad too, wanders off. When none of the men can convince even one other to see the animal in the 'correct' way, they resort to fists and teeth. The six men roll on the jungle floor, do their best to show the others the true vision of the newly discovered creature.
Finally a local priest or monk or, in this story, bartender comes along and finds the bloodied and broken men.
"Hey y'all! Whatya fighting 'bout?" he inquires curiously.
The six blind men dust themselves off, wipe away the blood and explain to the newcomer about the animal they've only just discovered. The bar keep shakes his head and tell them, "That was an elephant. And just 'cause you just stumbled on one that don't mean their kind ain't been around for the ages."
When the blind men discover the bartender knows about this animal, they insist he enlighten them.
"Settle our agrument," they beg. "Which of us is correct in his knowledge of this animal?"
"You are all correct," the sighted man tells them. "And none of you is correct."
At that the blind men fall upon the sighted man and beat him to death.
Okay. I just made up that last line, but given the current political environment in this country, that did seem the logical conclusion to the story.
Here's my point. We are too often the blind men. What if Fox and CNN actually listened to each other? Would our knowledge of the truth be expanded? What if Christians and Muslims agreed that each of their religions had a small piece of the knowledge of God and that, if they listened to each other, they might all know a little more. What if men stopped insisting on the strengh of the trunk and women quite criticizing the little tail and instead they came together to learn more about the relationship.
Ah well. I can dream can't I?