It’s All About Perspective: The Blind Men and the Elephant

BQxiYHmCAAE9dmQA few days ago, I shared a photo on Facebook that epitomizes what I believe to be one of the hallmarks of life: perspective. I’ve included the photo in today’s post (you can see it there on the right). I can’t tell for sure because I don’t read Korean, but the photo appears to come from advertisement for house for sale (or for rent). In the first frame, we can see what appears to be a lovely shot of the house featuring a nice pool. In the second shot, a different angle of the house where — again — the pool is featured. In the last shot, the big reveal — the pool is not what it appeared to be in the first two frames.

Some may look at the surface-level lesson — someone could have been severely swindled had they not gone to see this place (if they were going to rent/buy). I prefer to look at in a broader sense: it’s all about perspective. Without considering all of these photos together, one would miss the perspective that the pool certainly isn’t anywhere near as large as it appears. There’s certainly a “swindler” streak to these three photos, so let’s at a story that you may or may not have heard before:

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

That story is iconic of what it’s like to have an opinion. We’re all looking at things from our own perspective and believe that what we’re telling is the truest truth. I wrote about this very thing with regard to watching the news a couple of years ago. Depending on where we get our news, we’ll be listening to a different man who’s describing the elephant. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s important that we recognize that we may only be getting one perspective on the news (or elephant).

~

This is one of the things that I’ve tried to do on this site. Two of the categories I write under: Fresh Perspective and Perspective. When I write posts for one of these two categories, I’m trying to shed light on the story like we get when we look at the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant. I’m trying to look at the story from the same perspective we have as the reader of the story. That is, we know that all of the men are right in some way, but that they can’t connect the dots because of where their perspective lies.

To give you a sampling…

Fresh Perspective

Just yesterday, I wrote a post about the plethora of weak characters in movies that are women, but aren’t men. A few weeks ago, a post about having less written tests and more oral tests in education. What about having young people run the country? Or a reexamination of the US and terrorism? Maybe we don’t need to workout at all?

Perspective

Is there a modern day version of writing yourself a $10,000,000 post-dated check? Does market economics tell us that we need to pay politicians more? Do you know how long the US has been dependent on oil? Do you think that your team made a blunder with that trade? What would the world have looked like without the “I Have A Dream” speech?

 

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One response to “It’s All About Perspective: The Blind Men and the Elephant

  1. Pingback: Leonardo da Vinci Thinks You Need a Fresh Perspective | Jeremiah Stanghini

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