Blind Men

We Are The Blind Men (EP.74)

In Perspective, Podcast, Tribalism, Trust by Will Luden3 Comments

Summary

Do you remember hearing the story about the blind men each of whom were exploring an elephant for the first time? As each man explored the part of the elephant he was near with his hands, they each pronounced the elephant to be something different. The one touching the ear declared it to be a fan, another exploring the trunk said it was a snake, the one with the tail called it a rope, another running his hands over the body was sure it was a wall and the one with a tusk in his hands announced that the elephant was a spear. The story is supposed to show how a limited perspective can produce completely false conclusions. I would update that  conclusion to mean that not listening to and communicating with others can produce dangerously wrong conclusions. Remember, the men were blind–not deaf and mute. They could have figured this out together.

Transcript

Do you remember hearing the story about the blind men each of whom were exploring an elephant for the first time? As each man explored the part of the elephant he was near with his hands, they each pronounced the elephant to be something different. The one touching the ear declared it to be a fan, another exploring the trunk said it was a snake, the one with the tail called it a rope, another running his hands over the body was sure it was a wall and the one with a tusk in his hands announced that the elephant was a spear. The story is supposed to show how a limited perspective can produce completely false conclusions. I would update that  conclusion to mean that not listening to and communicating with others can produce dangerously wrong conclusions. Remember, the men were blind–not deaf and mute. They could have figured this out together.

When we hear the story about the blind men, the first reaction is to say, “How silly; I would never do that. I look into things thoroughly, and, after all, I am not blind.” Oh yes we are. Identity politics, believing people, news sources and “facts and figures” simply because they play to our preconceived notions, and not seeking out thoughtful sources with whom we disagree is being just as blind as the guys in the story. And will lead to conclusions that are just as wrong as theirs. And while there are no apparent negative consequences from mis-identifying an elephant, there are major and negative consequences when it comes to the community and national dialogues about identity politics and how to deal with the world around us financially, politically and morally.

Let’s take a look at the elephant and the blind men, and draw some useful parallels between this illustrative story and what is happening in our country today. What are the parts of the elephant, America in this parallel, and how are we, as the blind men, describing and reacting to them? N. B. (See, I got to squeeze this in again.), the blind men, while they each had very limited perspectives, were seeing real things. We need to to be very sure that everything we are seeing is real. Forging a complete perspective that includes false information will also yield an inaccurate picture of the whole.

The body of the elephant is the commitment to “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” “All men are created equal.” and “Endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” I have broken up this famous quote to emphasize the key, individual parts. Importantly, all of this was seen by the Founders as “Self-evident.” Self-evident. Let that sink in. And at a time when ideas like this were unheard of. Completely radical. And then this fledgling country took on the most powerful nation the world had ever seen, risking everything to bring these ideas to life. These radical ideas were a statement of direction, with the founders knowing full well that the nation would have been stillborn had they tried to make it all happen back in the late 1700s. With many ups and downs, cowardly missteps and overwhelming courage, America has been fulfilling the promise of that statement of direction. The blind men who are touching this part of the American elephant see only this part of our country.

The blind men touching the huge ears are sensing various identity groups fanning out everywhere. Not aware of anything else, that is just about all they talk about.

Those touching the tusks are perceiving wars of aggression. They think about the tusks not as powerful and useful tools, but as menacing and dangerous, perhaps even evil.

The tail is described as a whip of oppression, lashing out at everything in its way.  Similarly, the trunk is described as those in power, self-serving politicians, crony capitalists and their ilk using their power in twisted ways with no other purpose than to feed themselves.

And all of the blind men are right so far as their narrow perspectives allow. They are not honestly talking and listening to each other, learning and adding to their perspectives so they can all be aware of the truth of the whole. Overall, with all of their pluses and minuses, elephants are wonderful, good and necessary. But none of the blind men see anything like the whole elephant.

When America is seen as a whole, with its many pluses and minuses, it is also correctly seen as wonderful, good and necessary.

Too many of us are like the blind men. We see what we can see without paying much attention–if any–to what others are observing and believing. And when we do pay attention, it is often to dismiss and insult.

Today’s key point: Let’s not act like the correctly criticized and off track blind men. We all need to see the our country, America, in its entirety. Everything, good and bad. It’s a pretty good story, and needs to–and will–continue to get better.

Links and References

Blind Men And An Elephant

Columbus Day

Contact

As we get ready to wrap up, please do reach out with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind.  You can email me at will@resultswithreason.com, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.

Frequency

I publish two podcasts each week; mid-day on Tuesday and Friday. Every week. I am also considering doing these as videos on YouTube, and would love to get your thoughts.

Let’s apply the two Results With Reason main tenets to today’s issues. The two main tenets that we believe in at Results With Reason are:

  1. Personal Responsibility; practice it, teach it and
  2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper.

Today’s application is again straightforward:

  1. Personal Responsibility. Engage with others in the political issues you find on these podcasts. Whether or not you agree with everything your hear or read at here Results With Reason, don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe, for what you know to be true.
  2. Be your Brother’s Keeper. Be patient with each other; some will understand what you saying immediately, others will not. Teach and encourage; don’t criticize and reject. Love and lead. Remember, we are all in this together.

Now it is time for our usual parting thought. It is not enough to be informed. It is not enough to be a well informed voter. We need to act.  And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.

Remember: Knowledge by itself is the booby prize.

Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.

Will Luden
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Will Luden

As an author, speaker, public company board chair, family man, a man with many friends (and friends-to-be), citizen and a child of God, I am driven to contribute. One way to for me to contribute is to start thought-provoking discussions.My overall objective is to stimulate “Passionate, Relentless, Reasoning.” My specific goals include getting people to act (only) after Reasoning.
Will Luden
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Comments

  1. As always you inspire me to think clearly and reasonably with an open mind.

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