An Elephant Is Like A Rope
I’m sitting in an airport, frigid in the near-arctic air conditioning they typically favor in the transient man-made places of the world…which is actually a welcome respite from heatwave taking over Los Angeles. Plus, it gives me an excuse to up my normal Grande to a Venti soy toffee nut latte (needed after 4 hours of sleep). I’m distracted by a veteran, John, who is traveling from Vegas to see his granddaughter for her 18th birthday in Idaho and seems to be having trouble finding his place in this world after the loss of his wife of 45 years. He tells me how his loved ones are encouraging him to ‘get back out there’ and that he needs a companion. He then tells me he’d be better off finding companionship with some buxom prostitute out on the Vegas strip than through the likes of eHarmony. After 45 years with someone, I can understand how that’d be a more appealing option.
There’s a Jain parable that I always resonated with. Forgive me as I butcher the retelling of it. I think it can be more insightful to go off memory than google at times. So it goes something like this: Six blind men are told to describe an elephant off of touch alone. The first one touches the trunk and surmises that an elephant is like a giant snake. The second, it’s tusks, and says how it is like a bone spear. The third, the legs, ‘An elephant is like a sturdy tree’. The fourth, it’s ears, ‘The elephant is like a large fan’. The fifth, it’s hide and declares the elephant is like a wall. And the sixth, it’s tail….’Of course, an elephant is like a rope!’, he says. This resulted in bickering between the men until a wise man comes along and tells them they must work together to ‘see’ the whole of the elephant. And that was that. Importance of community, working together, and so on and so forth. But something else occurred to me the other night. I believe the significance of this parable is not just that we all must come together to see the bigger picture, but that our small, unique perspectives give insight and preciousness to the individual parts that make up a whole. If you were to look at an elephant right now as a whole, would there be any part of you that thought ‘An elephant is like a rope?’ Probably not. But that statement holds truth, does it not?
I thought, ‘Ah, now this is what it is to be human’. We are, each one of us, so small….one in 7+billion people and there’s so many pockets of the world that we’ll never know. If you were to look at us as a whole, you might think of Humans (capital H intended) as greedy, self-serving, contentious, contradictory or, maybe if you are of the ilk that believes humans are inherently good, you might marvel at the capacity for intelligence, creativity, and altruism….but, either way, take each one of us, individually, and I believe you might see more complexity, more depth, more detail than you could ever see than by looking at us all as a whole. There’s a beauty in that.
Back to the airport. I’m going to Oklahoma for WoodyFest, my favorite folk festival. My favorite community….perhaps because I spend 4 days where individuals on the stage, in conversations on the porch of the local coffee shop or out int he parking lot, in the audience of the pleasantly cool Brick Street Café are so open in sharing the way they see the world. And it’s wonderful. But, then again, random conversations with the likes of veteran John mean something too. I stand by that.
Here’s some love from me to you in the unique way you see this world.
And in other news….
Speaking of looking into someone’s world, remember that spoken word/song about my grandmother’s sister I alluded to writing? I thought I’d share it with you all first in its nascent stages. You can check it out here.
That's all for now, folks!
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