The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room

Have you heard the one about the blind men and the elephant?  Actually there is an ancient Indian fable about six blind men describing an elephant after they have each touched a different part of the elephant.  Below is an exert from the poem from the 19th century by John Godfry Saxe detailing this fable:

Blind Men and the Elephant 
It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approach’d the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,-
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said- “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

In the Acts passage this week, Paul takes notice of the religious philosophies of the Greeks.  In particular, he noticed an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.”

Paul then pleads with the people that they indeed know this God they worship. They know him through creation. They know God through their own experiences.

And furthermore, the God they worship cannot be contained by any one understanding or experience.  Paul states that God cannot be contained in shrines made by human hands.  I would add that God cannot be defined by one person, one school of thought, one song, or one verse of Scripture.  blind men and elephant

Take a moment and reflect. How would you describe God?  How do you recognize God?  What perspectives might others have that are different from yours?  What can you learn from those perspectives?

All of the blind men were describing the same elephant.  Yet they each had a different experience that led to their conclusions.  How would our understanding of God be different if we listened to each other?




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