Blind men and the elephant

Wang Jian Shuo is an amazing guy. He works for eBay’s branch in Shanghai, and writes frequently in English about Shanghai, China, his travels, and observations of East and West. I wrote here before about his thoughts on his BBC interview and media.

Recently he penned another great piece. Some key points that I liked:

In the story, six blind men approached the elephant and each one of them only grasped part of the elephant. They argued with each other about what the elephant really looked like. They claim the elephant is like a wall, like spear, like a snake, like a tree, like a fan, or like a rope. Obviously they could not reach an agreement.

Several hundred years later, the story still repeat itself. People tend to understand only a tiny portion of Reality and then extrapolate all manner of dogmas from that, each claiming only his one is the correct version. This re-appeared a number of times in both Western and Oriental thought.

By knowing that every one can only see so small part of the world, and so small slice of time in history, we are more curious and conciouse about the world. Being able to see only part of the world does not prevent us from forming an opinion, but we can do a much better job than the blind man. When we express our opinion, we can show some respect to others, and always remind ourselves that we only see part of the world.

If the six blind men can learn to appreciate other’s observation, and exchange ideas, maybe one day, they can draw a much closer view of the elephant, who knows.

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