Have you heard the story before about the blindfolded men who were standing all around an elephant, each describing what they felt? One man next to a leg says, “An elephant is round and straight,” while another man feeling just the tusks says “No, an elephant is actually rather hard and curved.” And so forth. There they were, each one feeling that he knew the truth yet each one experiencing something very different. Gandhi would say here, “No, we all have a piece of the Truth.”
But there is still a larger truth: there is still an elephant, and finding THAT is that to which Gandhi refers in his devotion to Sat, or Truth writ-large: we all hold separate pieces of it (truth, small ‘t’), but by putting them together, we can turn them into something much larger than any one of us can hold entirely on our own. Well, it might be lighter than an elephant. . . For this task, we need one another. In other words, we need to validate the experiences of one another, even if our experiences are very different.
That said, discovering Truth, writ-small or large is not going to be a simple matter. It seems to truly require that we cultivate the disciplines of nonviolence in order to even be willing to acknowledge that others have an experience that deserves validation. Once we get even there, we need to be just as willing to hold our own truth as equally valid. Our truths never negate one another, they always, in some way or another, reinforce each other.
This kind of change in thinking is the first step in getting to that famous Nonviolence 101 formula: It’s not you against me or me against you; it’s you and me against (read: working to resolve) the problem.
The next time someone has a complaint that you may not have, consider that they have a piece of the truth that complements, and is not in opposition, to your own.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com