The Broken Truth
"Once in a beautiful, faraway land...that was, somehow, not so very far..."
So starts many a story. This story is about a magical world, filled with truth. Truths fall from the sky, bubble up from the waters, sprout from the earth. The living creatures love the mystery and adventure of finding the truths and learning more about the enchanted place where they live. Until one day, a human finds a truth that seems especially beautiful, and decides to keep it and guard it and declare it his own.
He and his people began to call it, The Truth. You can imagine the rest of the story. In fact, we are living it. This story comes from the book Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, by Douglas Wood. You may find it in the children's book section of the library, but I assure you that adults need to read it even more than the little ones.
I had just re-read this story a few days ago. It has enchanted me for years. This morning, I received this message from Paul Ferrini in my inbox:
You don't see all of the truth. You see just a piece of it. When you look at an elephant, you see only the tail and when your friend looks s/he sees only the trunk. No matter how hard you try you cannot understand the meaning of "trunk," nor can your friend understand the meaning of "tail." Only one who sees the whole elephant understands both trunk and tail and the relationship between them.
I love synchronicity. I am also a bit unsettled by this particular one. You see, I have harbored the illusion that I am one of those who can "see the whole elephant." I try not to beat people with my Truth, and yet, clinging to the notion that I have a Truth that is whole and perfect is a form of blindness. I might see a considerable chunk of elephant, but if I am clinging whole-heartedly to the hindquarter, I am not free to see the rest of the beauty.
I feel like the last stanza of Paul's reminder is a bit of a teaser. I guess it is really more like a koan for me. It activates the competitive, linear, willful part of me who immediately says "How do I become one of those who sees the whole elephant?" Then the sabotaging mind comes in with the subtle warning "Well, I hope you know that you will never be happy until you are one of those people." Another part of me says "You may as well give up now and just enjoy your life. You are nowhere close to seeing what is True. Just have some cake and watch Netflix."
I can tell that this call is definitely for me, based solely on how loud these negative voices have become. It is not arrogant to want to see the whole elephant. It is not hopeless. It is the desire to glimpse my own self. I know that this is equally impossible because I can only ever see what the mirror, or the conscious mind, is showing me at this moment. Life is a mystery; a trail of puzzle pieces offered to us at just the right times to continue to spur us forward. Just to make sure we don't go down the dangerous paths, we are given healthy doses of failure and doubt to keep us humble and open.
I may never glimpse the whole elephant, or my whole self, but I know that I am able to see the biggest pieces when I allow myself to love another person and really, deeply listen about what their piece of the elephant is like. We aren't meant to be strong or wise alone. We are strong, wise and joyful together. Maybe that's why it is so incredibly rare for a human to see it all at once, we are given glimpses as gifts to one another. We are rewarded by sharing.