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The Elephant

One day a king called one of his ministers and told him: “Go, good fellow, and bring here all the men of the town that were born blind”. When the blind men had been assembled, the king told a servant: “Show these men an elephant”. The servant did as he was commanded, and he made one blind man touch the head of the elephant, another the ear, another the trunk, a tusk, a foot, the back, the tail, and the tuft of the tail; and to each one he said that he was touching the elephant.

After this the king went to those blind men and asked them: “Have you studied the elephant? Tell me your conclusions.”

The man who had touched the head said, “It is like a pot”. The one who had touched the ear said, “It is like a fan”.

And so, for the others the trunk became a plough; a tusk, a ploughshare; a foot a pillar; the back a granary; the tail a pestle; and the tuft of the tail a broom.

And each blind man thought that what he had touched was the elephant.

Then they began to argue with each other and to quarrel, saying, “An elephant is like this – no, it is not, it is like this – I tell you it is not”; and so on, until in the end they came to blows.

Lamps of Fire - Juan Mascaro- From the Scriptures and Wisdom of the World

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