American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) based the following poem on a fable which was told in India many years ago. It’s a great example of how easy it is for us to close our minds and fill in the blanks with sweeping generalizations. Also, it is a good warning about how out sensory perceptions can lead to misinterpretations.
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 approached 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
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Tao Te Ching: Chapter 10 = Harmony
Can one hold the soul in the body,
hold the mind in the spirit,
and keep them as one?
Can one concentrate the energy of life
and keep it supple like a newborn child?
Can one study everything and really know everything
without making a mistake?
Can one govern the nation with all the right actions
and really love the people?
Can one always make a decision with the right mind?
Can one empty the mind and fill it with the brightness of wisdom
and learn to step back from this knowledge?
Can one give life and grow life and yet claim no possession?
Can one supervise and benefit others,
yet exercise no authority and rely on no pride?
This is what is called the mysterious virtue.
translated by Chao-Hsiu Chen (2004)
Tao Te Ching: Chapter 10 = Harmony = ram0ram wisdom note
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