Perceptions.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”

~ Aldous Huxley

It is odd that this topic has come about when I am still mulling over the effects of The Danger Of A Single Story. Another instance of synchronicity! And I am mulling over this topic primarily because the recently held elections in some states of India has thrown up results that are being interpreted in so many ways and I am in separate discussions with three people on three different perceptions about the causes and likely effects of the outcome.

Blind Men and the Elephant

A Poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) 

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 approach’d 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 approach’d 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,
Then, 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!

MORAL,

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean;
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

The inspiration for this poem was the Panchatantra as can readily be seen from the beginning verse where the six blind men are said to be from Indosthan, an Anglicised word for Hindustan.

Pravin has suggested the topic for this week’s LBC Friday post. You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  Maria, Pravin and Shackman.

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22 Responses to Perceptions.

  1. Ursula says:

    Good job, and a lot of luck, that none of the blind got trampled underfoot.

    U
    Ursula recently posted..Why, oh why, oh why

  2. Kylie says:

    That poem says so much, doesn’t it?

  3. shackman says:

    Very clever poem – and very accurate. Sadly, even if all 6 were not blind the results would likely have been similar
    shackman recently posted..Perceptions

  4. I first read that story when I was in high school. It has stuck with me all these years, because it explains so much.
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..Not So Springlike

  5. even if you were not blind and were taken blind folded to an animal you were familiar with as sighted but not told “it’s an elephant” I’m sure a great many would have come up with similar ideas…

    it’s like when they play the game – pin the tail on the donkey…

    Perceptions is being applied to me a lot of late – I have a couple of acquaintances who can’t quite get their head around my “new life” and they have come up with “spoken or written words” that I can’t seem to find an answer that satisfies them, because they then go off on another tangent.

    Some have even started in on friends that are still very much my friend/s… that is really hard to take because they aren’t actually a friend of that friend!

    I’ve had to wipe a few from my radar…which then causes other assumptions!

    • I am going through a similar problem with some of my friends unable to understand my reluctance to be more social than I am while being comfortable in my comfort zone at home.

  6. Wisewebwoman says:

    Perception is unique to the individual blind or sighted.

    A long time since I saw this poem. Thanks for the reminder. It’s powerful.

    XO
    WWW
    Wisewebwoman recently posted..In the Beginning….Part 2

  7. Kaitlin says:

    I really like that Huxley quote as well as that poem. So true. Thanks for sharing!

  8. “The one that has seen doesn’t speak; the one that speaks hasn’t seen” decipher the wise.
    Nice topic!
    Raj Krishnaswamy recently posted..Shiva Sahasranamam SMP Audio

  9. I’ve never seen that poem but I remember my grandfather telling me the story of the blind men and the elephant.
    Secret Agent Woman recently posted..Yard work!

  10. I’ve known about the story for some time, and somewhere along the way, I know I read it to my primary class. It says so much! Better than any philosophy lesson.

  11. nick says:

    Indeed, if all you know is one particular part of something, your perception of the whole can be quite absurd! Reminds me of the well-known fact that if ten people witness an event, they’ll all come up with slightly different (or very different) versions of what happened. Thus the perennial unreliability of eye-witnesses.
    nick recently posted..Temperamentally subdued

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