Wednesday, April 23, 2014


For two days I have been thinking of that story about the elephant. I can't remember it very clearly and have completely forgotten its source, but that doesn't stop it trumpeting around in me. It's the one where a group of different people have a compromised view of an elephant and each one is convinced the elephant is something it's not; a person touching the skin of its leg thinks it's the bark of a tree, a person at its trunk thinks the elephant is a snake, the person petting the elephant's ear is all like "Whoa! This feels so weird, and all this hot breath on my head is freaking me out!"

The story, as I recall, does not relate what the elephant is thinking. My guess is that, in keeping with the story, the elephant, confronted with all these pesky, invasive, smaller creatures, must think they are mosquitoes. This means everyone in the story is confused and misguided.

But we, reading it, are not confused and misguided. Neither is our omniscient narrator, nor the original author. We are like gods, albeit unruly ones, looking down at it all, saying "Ha! That is an elephant not a tree!" and "Those are so obviously people, not mosquitoes!" and "Pick me! I know what the moral of the story is!"

Ah. But what if we're all standing too close to the fable and are just characters who have gotten it all wrong again?

What if the story keeps going out into another story, forever?


  1. is porous and opens up into every possible story so that the elephant itself, in isolation, loops back into it's original parable?

    1. Sure, but if the elephant loops back in what does the elephant think the elephant in the original parable is?

  2. I think this some sort of Buddhist parable about the delusional perils of isolated pretense. The elephant, convinced of it's singular identity looses it's contextual moorings and casts about. The elephant considers, identifies and behaves like anything bit it's true nature.

    1. I have read your comment 37 times and think I now have sort of a grasp on it, enough, at least, to say, yes, I think you've got it, but then I am always keen to give myself more credit if I can.


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