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Five Blind Men and the Elephant

There is a well known story about five blind men who came across an elephant in the middle of the jungle. As the men moved toward the elephant, every one of them touched a part of the animal. One proclaimed that it resembled a tree. Another expressed that it resembled a snake or rope. A third demanded that it resembled a stone divider. The fourth contended that it was really a lance. The fifth person reasoned that it resembled a fan. Furthermore, there was a lot of battling in the land. In the mean time, a wise old man was watching this and said just, "Truly, every one of you are mostly right, yet you are additionally all wrong."

Looking at the Bigger Picture:

The story of the Blind Men and the Elephant is the reality of our world since its creation till the end of times. To get a better understanding of how everything operates, we can’t depend on our sight alone, but need to have a wider vision. Vision is the greatest tool we posses as leaders. It gives us beyond what we see into what we could see and let us look at a bigger picture. The end of racism against African Americans in United States started with a speech of Late Martin Luther King Jr. titled “ I have a dream”. In this famous and one of the greatest talks of all time, Late Martin Luther King Jr. painted his whole vision in front of audience’s eyes which brought a revolution to the governing system and the laws. There are important principles to have in mind when considering vision and seeing a bigger picture:

1- We don’t really see the world as it is but as the way we are: Reality is the reflection of our inner world, nothing else or more. As Carl Jung, one of the pioneers of modern psychology, mentioned, “ He who looks outside dream; he who looks inside awakes”. Our attitude and reaction toward other people and outside world always reflects our own personal perception and thoughts. That is why it is important to always check in with our own hearts before we judge other people. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” This is a great question which was asked by Christ to the crowd when He saw the judgmental attitude of people. Pointing out the finger to others without looking at ourselves is a sign of ignorance. It is always great to ask ourselves, “Is what I am seeing in others is about me or them?”


2- We become blind when we insist in our own ways or we have the illusion of knowing all the answers: Since the outside world is the reflection of our inner thoughts and beliefs, we all perceive it differently. Even though as human we share the same earth, we don’t share the same world. Francis Assisi had a great perspective on how to have a better society, “ Don’t change the world, change worlds”. Since the world as a whole is a product of everyone’s world, when people start to change, our world automatically changes too. It is wrong to think of changing the world; we can’t do that if first people don’t change. When Moses was chosen by God to let Israelites into a Promised Land out of Egypt, a land of bondage and slavery for Jews, Israelites were stuck in the wilderness for forty years and keep wanting to go back to their old lives. Why? Because slavery was still in their heart and even thought they were freed physically, their heart was still imprisoned. Therefor, the whole generation of them died in the wilderness and their offspring entered the Promised Land where they had no memory of bondage and slavery in Egypt. As we come to understand that every person’s world is unique in its own way and is limited, we try to look at the bigger picture by having a vision beyond our sight.


3- We live a much better life when we focus on the bigger picture instead of the limited reality: Shams Tabrizi, a great Sufi master, mentioned in his Forty Rules of Love a great secret of universe, “"Life is a temporary loan, and this world is nothing but a sketchy imitation of Reality. Only children would mistake a toy for the real thing. And yet human beings either become infatuated with the toy or disrespectfully break it and throw it aside.” It is easy to lose hope if all we are seeing as reality is this world; instead, when we see the bigger picture and have eternal outlook, we take everything in our world lighter. In a psychological research, it has been proven those who avoid and sacrifice short term pleasure for a gain of long-term goal live a much successful lives than those who focus on short-term pleasures and have no self-control. Our lives and decisions will be much more effective when we make them in the lens of eternity instead of what we see now.

As we take a better look at ourselves, we realize we all touch one part of elephant and sometimes get so caught up in one part that we forget the whole. However, it is always good to take a step back and see the bigger picture and ask ourselves, “ Is what I am experiencing now all that ever exists?” We then realize the present is just a drop of the ocean. Once we find the answer for ourselves, our life will surely get a new, wider perspective and in the light of that, we will certainly live a better world!

Copyrighted by Parsa Peykar

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