“It was six men of Hindustan
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 six blind men each encounter the elephant from a different physical perspective… tail, ear, tusk, leg, side, and trunk… and each describes the elephant respectively as like a rope, a fan, a spear, a tree, a wall, and a snake.
We might think that because they are blind, the necessity to pool their knowledge and impressions of the elephant is both unique and self-evident. But even sighted people need to share their small morsels of knowledge and experience in order to know and understand some things. We each come at the elephant from a different mental/psychological perspective and also need to consolidate our impressions. Cathy Davidson (author of Now You See It) points out that we are attention blind, meaning that we see according to how we pay attention. Quantum science has shown us that who we are determines how and what we see…so it seems that all of us have a piece of the truth and none of us has “the whole truth.”
The more we search out the experiences and perspectives of others, the more inclusive truth we will be able to arrive at. Bob Samples, author of Openmind/Wholemind, reminds us to say yes, and… rather than yes, but. Yes, but rejects the other’s viewpoint. It disallows anything that might mess with our own point of view. It shuts down, and shuts out, the experience and perspective of another. Yes, and… on the other hand, admits more than one way of looking at something. It makes room for greater understanding…
“And so these men of Hindustan
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.”
If these men worked together abiding by Bob Samples’ advice, they would come closer to constructing the elephant than by vying, each for the supremacy of his own idea.
Yes, and …has worked for us many times as a way to look at diverse (and even contradictory) opinions in a respectful and very useful way.
Note: The Blind Men and the Elephant by John Godfrey Saxe from The Oxford Treasury of Children’s Poems