In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one touches a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes on what they felt, and learn they are in complete disagreement. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a tree; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a snake; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a spear. Each blind man has interesting and useful things to say, but what seems an absolute truth is relative due to where each blind man stands. The story is used to indicate that reality may be viewed differently depending upon one's perspective.I used to say that the elephant was like a tree and a rope, then I only thought it was only like a tree and maybe sometimes like a snake, but now I think it is like all of them. Sometimes I even feel like I am "one with the elephant." The interesting thing about elephants is that their characteristics are transient, and they are always moving around, so what they are like at one moment can be completely different at the next. That's nature, but it can be accepted and even transcended when one takes the perspective of all perspectives, and realizes, as expressed by Wang Yang-ming, that "all things form one body". The same sentiment is contained in the Western Inscription. I take this to mean not only all things, as in material things, but also the contents of the mind. In this union with everything, there is peace. There's only one problem, I can't help feeling a little delusional writing "I am everything and nothing" in a blog entry.
So the story of the blind men and an elephant is a very useful one, even if by itself unconvincing. And elephants are just cool! They are big, smart, and have one of the most awesome appendages in the animal kingdom - a trunk. A trunk is so useful. How many herbivorous animals without hands can paint on a canvas with a brush?