The universe is vast. We are immersed in an environment so rich that we cannot possibly manage to absorb it all at once. We all perceive different aspects of our surroundings. For example, one person may be highly sensitive to smell, and notice every subtle scent in her environment while another person may smell very little. An individual may have a keen sense of hearing, while another is not sensitive to sounds.
None of these patterns of observance are inherently right or wrong. They are just different.
One thing I love about being in a book club is that ten women can read the exact same book, yet each one of us has an entirely different experience of how we relate to the book, respond to the writing, integrate the content and mull it over in our minds.
We, ourselves, are constantly evolving and changing, reshaping ourselves in response to our environment and our experiences.
We can all look at the same work of art and have very different responses in our bodies, minds and souls. There is no right or wrong… just our own unique experience.
Yet sometimes in a relationship, we can get stuck in conflict, thinking that we know the one, the only, the absolute, impenetrable, unmistakable truth.
The liberating revelation is that there are multiple truths, and we no longer need to hold on so tightly to defending our fast-held perceptions. We are all right! Together we weave a wonderful rich tapestry.
There is a beautiful parable from Buddhist, Sufi, Jain and Hindu lore. The story goes like this:
Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day an elephant came to the village. The men had no idea what an elephant was, and came to touch him. Each man felt and described a different part of the elephant.
One man felt the tusk and declared, “It is like a solid pipe.”
Another man touched the elephant’s tail and said, “Oh no, you are wrong. It is like a rope”.
The man who touched the elephant’s leg insisted, “Absolutely not! It is a pillar…”
On touching the ear, one man described, “It is large and flat like a big hand fan”.
And the man who touched the side of the elephant said, “No, no, no. It is like a big wall.”
One man touched the elephant’s trunk and shook his head from side to side. “You are all wrong. It is like the branch of a tree.”
The men argued about the elephant, each one insisting that he was right.
A wise man came walking by and saw that the men were distressed and in conflict and he asked what was wrong. The men shared with him that they could not agree on the physical nature of the elephant.
“Why, my friends,” said the wise man. “You are all correct. Each one of you touched a different part of the elephant and described just one feature of this animal. The elephant is all of these things.”
The moral of the story is that there can be multiple truths. Instead of arguing about which truth is, “the one and only absolute truth”, we can listen to each others truth, and maybe become richer, more informed human beings. And maybe get to better understand ourselves, our partners, children, co-workers, friends and neighbors, and even our universe.
The earth was once thought to be flat.
Open your mind. Open your heart. Be willing to expand your universe and listen.
With Aloha from Marie.
Image Credit: Catherine Velasquez