The Blind Men and The Elephant

Once there was an elephant, who had been brought up from the south. It incited the curiosity of the crowds, who all came to see the elephant. The crowd was in a small alley arguing as to what this animal was when some blind people heard of the elephant. They wished they could see what type of animal the elephant was, but knew that they could only use their hands to feel.

The first blind man felt the long tusk, excitedly he shouted, “I know what it is, it’s a radish, a long long radish, narrow at the top and wide at the bottom.” Another blind man feeling the elephant’s leg said, “This elephant, how can it be a radish? I feel the roughness of the texture and its width, it obviously is a column.” The third blind man felt the elephant’s body and said, “How can you say it’s a column? It obviously is a wall. The fourth man feeling the elephant’s tail hurriedly said, “You are joking, the elephant is so soft, how can it be a wall? Obviously it is a long length of string.

These four people argued for half a day, and none of them could convince the others that his interpretation was the correct one. When we observe a new issue, sometimes we are too focused on some specific parts of the issue and then we quickly jump into conclusions. If we do such thing, we are surely risking ourselves to jump into wrong conclusions. So what we need to do is finding the whole picture of the issue while picking some specific parts that need to be observed in greater details. If we do this we’ll avoid two of the extremes.

One extreme is we become too broad-view minded, we only know things on the surface we don’t dive into details. This way we are risking ourselves into taking ineffective, inefficient, and careless actions.

The other extreme is we are diving too deep on certain specific parts, while ignoring other parts that perhaps can help and ease our ways in understanding and solving the issue.


1.  The Blind Man and The Elephant

2. The Blind Men and the Elephant, available at Peace Corps


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