elephant in the dark
the following story is from the Mathnawi of Rumi (13th century sufi poet). i find it simple and smart, full of sense of humour. the story gives the conception of unity, cosmos in a very precise and short text:
there was an elephant in a dark house, brought by some hindus for exhibition. many people went to see it and had to enter the dark stable to do so. because it was so dark they could not make out the form of the elephant at all and had to work with their hands to identify its being, each person using his palm to find the shape. the hand of one fell on the creature’s trunk and he said. “this is a water pipe.” The hand of another touched the ear and found a fan. another handled the elephant;s leg and found a pillar, while another touched the back and discovered a throne, there were those who heard description from these folk and made their own identifications and there were still others who interpreted one shape as against another, all very diverse and contrary.
had there been a candle in each hand
the differences would have come from speech
the eye of self perception is like the palm and hand
for this has power to touch but part, not whole,
the eye of the sea is one thing, the foam another.
leave the foam and look through the eye, marvelous!
we dash against our sight like boats,
our eyes are blind, missing clear water.
the water has water driving it.
the spirit has a spirit calling it.
take the spirit home and let it drive,
for it will find the shape and the size and know the whole,
without a glance, without a touch, but always whole.