Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Open Mind, Open Eyes

The Elephant and the Fairies

by George Guild

It is a fact that few of us realize that we have never seen a fairy wearing glasses. Why shouldn't they wear glasses? Little boys and girls wear glasses. Little boys and girls like fairies, yet it is unheard of for fairies to imitate what other people do, and wear those dreadful goggles which spoil the eyes and faces of beautiful young children. Many a fairy has whispered in the ears of children that glasses are bad. Many a fairy has whispered into the ears of a mother that glasses were an injury to the eyes, with the result that mothers who enjoy the society of their children are troubled about the glasses.
One evening after everybody had gone to bed, the father of a family sat in his chair dozing, after he had read the evening paper. Many fairies came and whispered in his ears that glasses were bad for his children. He tried to argue the matter with them.
"Why shouldn't they wear glasses? The doctor says it does them good. They cost a lot of money, and my children are all the time breaking them. But if it does them good, why shouldn't they wear them?"
The fairies remonstrated with him and told him that he could not see with his eyes, he could not see with his mind, and that he was just as blind as the five men were who tried to describe an elephant which they had never seen.
"Well, tell me all about it," said he.
So one of the fairies perched herself on his right shoulder, and told him the story which illustrated how wrong some people can be.
Once upon a time many centuries ago, an elephant came to a small village where no person had ever seen such a creature before. Five blind men were coaxed with some flattery to give their opinion of the elephant.
One grasped the tail and declared: "The elephant is very much like a snake." The roar of laughter from the spectators upset him very much.
The second blind man leaned against the side of the elephant and said: "The elephant is very much like a high wall." The applause of the mob was tremendous.
The third handled one of the elephant's legs. "Yes,” he said, "The elephant is very much like a pillar." The applause which followed bothered him.
The fourth grasped one of the elephant's ears, and very solemnly asserted: "The elephant is similar to a fan." More applause and laughter greeted this opinion which also disturbed the blind man.
The fifth felt of the sharp pointed tusks, and said: "The elephant is very much like a spear." As an encore to the applause, he corrected himself and announced: "The elephant is like two spears."
The five blind men gathered together. The vigorous arguments of each blind man to prove that he was right and that all the others were wrong, amused the populace for some hours.
The world is full of blind people who have eyes and minds which do not see. The world is full of Good Fairies who teach us how to see with our eyes and minds.
The next morning the father told his wife all about his experience with the fairies, and when the children appeared for breakfast wearing their large rimmed spectacles, he saw how their eyes and faces were injured by them. His wife saw the same thing, and they both exclaimed in one breath: "Take off those horrid glasses, and never wear them again."
Then the little girl took off her glasses and dropped them in the waste-basket with a smile. The little boy dropped his on the floor and, with the heel of his heavy shoe, he smashed them into little bits, and laughed.
The father was astonished, and asked: "Why did you do that?"
The little boy laughed loudly, and cried: "Because I have got the best of the horrid things. They never did me any good. They hurt my eyes and kept me off the baseball team. I cannot tell you how glad I am to be rid of them."
The little girl also was smiling, and they soon were all smiling, and they have been smiling pretty much all the time ever since.

If  got it right, this old Indian parable was published this way (with the addition of the fairy, children, etc) on  Better Eyesight - A Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Prevention and Cure of Imperfect Sight Without Glasses -  Dec.1919. Wiliam H. Bates.

About the Blind Men and an Elephant parable, there are more interesting points here (worth reading the whole article on Wikipedia):

"Two of the many references to this parable are found in Tattvarthaslokavatika of Vidyanandi (9th century) and Syādvādamanjari of Ācārya Mallisena (13th century). Mallisena uses the parable to argue that immature people deny various aspects of truth; deluded by the aspects they do understand, they deny the aspects they don't understand. "Due to extreme delusion produced on account of a partial viewpoint, the immature deny one aspect and try to establish another. This is the maxim of the blind (men) and the elephant."[4] Mallisena also cites the parable when noting the importance of considering all viewpoints in obtaining a full picture of reality. "It is impossible to properly understand an entity consisting of infinite properties without the method of modal description consisting of all viewpoints, since it will otherwise lead to a situation of seizing mere sprouts (i.e., a superficial, inadequate cognition), on the maxim of the blind (men) and the elephant."[5] "
from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant