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Once there were three blind men who were given the task of describing an elephant. Each was led into an elephant pen by way of a different gate.
The first man approached the elephant from the front and groped around the elephant’s trunk. The second encountered the elephant from the rear and grabbed the tail. The last man walked into a leg and felt around that part of the elephant.
Then the men were led out of the pen and asked to describe the appearance of an elephant. Well, being blind, none of them had ever actually seen an elephant, but each of them did have a very real perspective from which to share; and share they did.
They all agreed that an elephant is round. After all, the trunk, tail, and leg are all basically round in shape. But that is where the similarities ended. Before long, the discussion turned ugly. Each man knew that he was correct. After all, he had touched the elephant! You can’t get much closer to a source that than that.
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Two of the men, each armed with unequivocal, undeniable, unimpeachable information, felt compelled to argue their cases. They felt it was their duty to convince all other blind people the “truth” about the elephant. These two men looked for every opportunity to pursue their duty, sharing elephant truths.
And other blind people appreciated their efforts and began to ask questions. Some members of the blind community liked hearing about the “trunk” description. Others thought that the “tail” description was closer to the truth. And these two men enjoyed their new-found popularity greatly.
In order to have more things to talk about, one of these same two men, researched Braille articles about elephants. Unfortunately, some of the articles were written by folks with ulterior motives—ivory hunters, ruthless poachers, who cared only about the monetary value of elephants.
The blind man either didn’t know that some of the articles were intentionally deceptive, or perhaps he didn’t care. After all, the articles did provide talking points, which in turn increased his popularity.
The second argumentative blind man was content simply to argue. The louder he argued the more attention he got. Healthy, informed debate is good and productive. Too bad this one fellow would occasionally resort to name calling, all the while claiming to be the only source of real elephant truth.
Nevertheless, he maintained a substantial following among the blind community and, to a large degree, that was all that mattered; much more so than the elephant.
What about the third blind man? Well, he was out there all the time. He too shared his perspective of the elephant, his own brand of elephant truth. His perspective was limited too, but he shared what he knew to be true.
The difference is, this man stayed true to his mission—sharing truth about elephants. He didn’t rail against the tail perspective. He didn’t throw a tantrum when new trunk information got released. He merely shared what he knew and let members of the blind community do with it what they will.
As you can see, not all the blind men behaved the same way. They did however, have several things in common. They all had great connections (which explains why they were selected as elephant describers in the first place).
These connections afforded them a certain measure of special status within the blind community. Additionally, all three blind men had valid perspectives. After all, their descriptions of the trunk, tail and leg were all accurate.
And let’s not forget the last thing they had in common—they were all blind! Special status or not, they were all members of the blind community. Thus, while all of them had real information regarding a portion of the elephant, none of them understood the whole elephant.
Ultimately, the complete truth about the elephant resides with one Person—the Creator of the elephant. If only the blind men knew this. I believe they did. Perhaps all that talk about the elephant created a temporary blind spot.