Thursday, February 16, 2017

Methods of Questioning

"We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." - Werner Heisenberg 

Six blind men happen upon an elephant. The first man feels the tail and decides they have encountered a rope. The second man touches a leg and says they have approached a tree. Stroking the trunk, the third man announces, "I have touched a snake." After feeling a tusk, the fourth man announces he has discovered a spear. A fifth man runs his hands up the side of the body and declares they have approached a wall. Finally the sixth man feels the ears and reveals he has found a fan.

They begin arguing instead of collaborating to "see" the full elephant. A man with sight hears their bickering as he walks by. He stops to say they all are wrong in their observations. 

What does the parable mean in today's world?  How do individual perceptions and experiences lead to limited interpretations? While one's subjective experience feels true, it may not be the totality of truth. If the sighted man were deaf, he could not hear the elephant bellow.

The parable reveals insight into the relativism or difficulty discovering the nature of truth. In fields with limited or inaccessible information, the need for communication and respect is vital. 

What happens when you turn the story around?

Six blind elephants were discussing what men were like. After arguing they decided to find one and determine what it was like by direct experience. The first blind elephant felt the man and declared, "Men are flat." After the other blind elephants felt the man, they agreed.

If we know the whole elephant exists, how can we open our minds with curiosity to experience more of him?  

This might help us focus on the big picture when confronted with the next challenge.

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