I love the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant most. It is interesting, inspirational, and helpful for me.
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.
I also saw it on this blog. The most recent comments (like this) repeated the Blind Men and Elephant story. When I read comment like this, I never doubt that the person had touched part of the elephant. He/she did, but not all. Me? I am the same.
By knowing that every one can only see so small part of the world, and so small slice of time in history, we are even 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 men. When we express our opinions, we can show some respect to others, and always remind ourselves that we only see part of the world.
Since I don’t have the confidence as many of my strong-minded commentors to claim I am the person who knows the whole world best, I can only write my own observation to the world. So here is the rule I used to write my blog: I don’t write down something I know is not true. This helps me to still have the courage to write, although I am conciouse that I may be expressing the incomplete view. For example, I did write about news on local newspaper. However, I didn’t experience it myself, or by my own eyes, the only thing I could confirm is, I read about a piece of news on newspaper. I believe even after 50 years, even the news itself may be prooved to be fake, it is still a solid truth that this kind of news ever appeared and reached a normal person in Shanghai. Isn’t it also a valuable piece of history record to show the daily life 50 years ago?
Just like The Diary of Anne Frank shows there is children’s dream and how Anne enjoys the little closet under Nazi, general perception is different than REAL people’s life.
Shanghai is such a big city, and there are so many people there. Everyone has a different life. Some is tough; some is good. Some people are always optimistic about life, and some are always sad and angry about the world. There are 16 million different lives Shanghai. I am 1/16 million of the city. I don’t think anyone can generalize what the life in the city is. I don’t like to call a certain type of life is “representitive” to the life in this city, because 16 million lives, including mine, are all unique, and meaningful.
If the six blind men can learn to appreciate other’s observation, and sit down around a table, and put other’s view to suppliment their own views, maybe they could draw a much closer view of the elephant, who knows.
In reality, since everyone is a blind man, I rely on my readers to comment and tell me what the same world look like, whether it’s like a fan, like a pole, like a wall, or something else.
That is the reason I enjoy the comments on my blog, no matter it is positive, negative, or different. I never delete people attacking me or China/Shanghai/Henan/Asia/(and sometime human as a whole) on this blog. I never doubt the sincerity when they write down the comment, because it was their true feeling. I understand that. What bothers me was the frustration people expressed when they argued on this blog. They tried too hard pusuade another blind man to agree with them, without listening first. Why the world should have only one view? Why cannot a subject be both red, and green, large and small, evil and good, happy and sad? Can these conflicting characters belong to the same thing? If we accept that there can be more than one answer to a question, we start to appreciate other’s answers.
Finally, let me tell you another great story, it is called “The Six Blind Men and China”
It was six men in different part of the world, to learning much inclined,
who went to see China (Though all of them were blind),
that each by observation, might satisfy his mind.
The first approached China, and, reading several piece of news
on Internet, at once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but China, is nothing but an evil country!”
The second visiting Shanghai the last year, cried:
“Ho! what an exciting experience. I like the food!
To me tis mighty clear, this wonder of China, is very like a paradise!”
The third approached the country, and, visiting the rural area,
“I see, “, quoth he, “China is the poorest country in the world!”
The fourth reached out his eager hand and set a branch of his international business:
“Why you still waste time here,” quoth he;
“Tis clear enough China is the powerhouse of the world economy!”
The fifth, who chanced to be have a bad life on this land, Said; “E’en the blindest man can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can, This marvel of China, is very like hell!”
The sixth kept a blog for 5 years, and also lived there,
“I see,” quothe he, “China is very like a good place for me!”
And so these men, disputed loud and long,
each in his own opinion, exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!
So, oft in theologic wars, the disputants, I ween,
tread on in utter ignorance, of what each other mean,
and prate about China, not one of them has seen!
Written by Jian Shuo Wang, based on the work of John Godfrey Saxe (1816 – 1887)