The man who feels the elephant’s tail thinks the elephant is like a rope.
The man who feels the elephant’s trunk thinks it’s like a snake.
The man who feels the elephant’s leg thinks it’s like a tree.
The man who feels the elephant’s flank thinks it’s like a wall.
The man who feels the elephant’s tusk thinks it’s like a spear.
I can only imagine what the man who ended up with the rear-end thought it was like.
From each of their perspectives, they were right. But none of them understood what an elephant was.
Much of our suffering comes by clinging to our own perception of the way things are and projecting those perceptions on others. It would be easy enough to say that no one’s right or we’re all right, but either statement obscures the fact that we’re all feeling on the same elephant. Sure, it may change with time and the practical infinity of interactions that happen each moment, but the fact that it changes doesn’t mean that there’s no it. (How can something that doesn’t exist change?)
Our perception of the world rarely matches the way things are – and the more we collectively discuss what we’re seeing, the closer we get to seeing the way things are. Unfortunately, that gets us into the sea of social troubles.
In the meantime, as Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Like the elephant, our battles may seem diverse, but we each have (at least) one.
p.s. Many of the battles we end up fighting are the ones we’ve created for ourselves.