A former king of the town of Savatthi, ordered all his blind subjects to be assembled and divided into groups. Each group was then taken to an elephant and introduced to a different part of the animal- the head, trunk, legs and so forth. Afterwards, the King asked each group to describe the nature of the beast. Those who had made contact with the head described an elephant as a water pot; those familiar with the ears likened the animal to a winnowing-basket; those who had touched a leg said an elephant was like a post, and those who had felt the tusk insisted the elephant was shaped like a peg. The groups then fell to arguing amongst themselves each insisting its definition was correct and all the others were wrong.
Many of us act as the blind men investigsting the elephant. Wherever we were brought up has influenced us in a huge way. Who are parents were, how they treated us and any beliefs they had shaped our lives too. Our experiences through childhood, school and young adult life put the finishing touches on the person we were to become and how we would impact the world.
In different cultures children are brought up to see and understand in different ways, which is why unfamiliar customs often seem curious or strange to outsiders but quite natural to members of the culture concerned. When dealing with people from other cultures it’s easy to project our own beliefs and associations upon them, oftentimes knowing absolutely nothing about them.
The world is changing, the world is getting smaller. Countries are becoming diversified and individuals are able to live and work where they choose, or where ever is best for their families. If we are closed minded and cling to our own view of the elephant without realising the whole, we will breed seperateness and division.
If, on the other hand, we see ourselves in everyone who we meet and interact with, recognising them as a human, rather than labelling them because of their skin colour, culture, place of birth, sexual preference etc, we can bring unity and togetherness into the world. This is ultimately remembering that there exists a whole elephant, not just the part of the elephant that we were in touch with while we were growing up.
Let’s cultivate community and togetherness. Anyone you interact with likely has similar troubles, problems and worries as yourself. We should remember the similarities between us, rather than exacerbating the differences.