Saturday, April 10, 2010

What is REALLY real?

When working with my clients, I often tell them the old story of the three blind men and the elephant: Three blind men encounter an obstacle (an elephant) in their path. The first blind man reaches out and feels the trunk of the elephant and declares it is a hose; the second blind man feels the elephant’s tusk and thinks it is a sword; the third touches the elephant’s leg and insists the elephant is a tree. They end up in a hopeless argument, not being able to agree on whose reality is really real.

I use this story to point up a major tenet of postmodernism: Our sense of what is real depends upon our perspective. Indeed, we all have our human truths that are vital to us and our socially constructed reality—that’s fine and the way it should be. The point is, we should be extremely leery of declaring these human truths absolute Truth with a big "T." 

I recently ran across a wonderful quote by Robert M. Pirsig that illustrates this same human conceit of taking a partial sampling (the extent of our human reality) and declaring it everything. I combined the Pirsig quote with a photograph I took at Ogunquit Beach many years ago.

“We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.”
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