In John Godfrey Saxe’s “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” the poet suggests that holding to singular perspectives can limit our collective considerations of goings-on. Weigh his poem;
It was six men of Indostan, to learning much inclined,
who went to see the elephant (Though all of them were blind),
that each by observation, might satisfy his mind.
The first approached the elephant, and, happening to fall,
against his broad and sturdy side, at once began to bawl:
'God bless me! but the elephant, is nothing but a wall!'
The second feeling of the tusk, cried: 'Ho! what have we here,
so very round and smooth and sharp? To me tis mighty clear,
this wonder of an elephant, is very like a spear!'
The third approached the animal, and, happening to take,
the squirming trunk within his hands, 'I see,' quoth he,
the elephant is very like a snake!'
The fourth reached out his eager hand, and felt about the knee:
'What most this wondrous beast is like, is mighty plain,' quoth he;
'Tis clear enough the elephant is very like a tree.'
The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said; 'E'en the blindest man
can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an elephant, is very like a fan!'
The sixth no sooner had begun, about the beast to grope,
than, seizing on the swinging tail, that fell within his scope,
'I see,' quothe he, 'the elephant is very like a rope!'
And so these men of Indostan, disputed loud and long,
each in his own opinion, exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!
So, oft in theologic wars, the disputants, I ween,
tread on in utter ignorance, of what each other mean,
and prate about the elephant, not one of them has seen! 1
The matter of putting contemplations on record, like the business of blind men regarding an elephant, can be related to by means of numerous attributes. In either case, discrete assessments are not especially illuminating, but multiple outlooks, taken collectively, lend understanding.
To wit, it’s helpful to mull over composition as simultaneously likened to an assortment of acts. Namely, comprehension can be gleaned by equating writing with: driving, achieving athletic feats, cooking, styling an outfit, poisoning, and healing.
First, the process of recording notions is like getting on a highway. More exactly, one can either travel to a known destinations or can joyride without specifying endpoints. In either case, as long as road rules are followed, all will probably be fine with one’s journey. What’s fundamental to having a good trip is that a driver is careful and comfortable behind the wheel. As soon as a driver has mastered maneuvering his or her vehicle, he or she can enjoy many types of itineraries.
By the same token, one can set down reflections with or without actual audiences, suasory goals, or content in mind or one can limit the states of affairs surrounding his or her writing. In either case, as long as the rudiments of literary elements are embraced, all will probably be fine with one’s creations. What’s fundamental to cultivating a sound product is that a writer is careful and comfortable generating texts. As soon as a scribbler has mastered maneuvering his or her ideas, he or she can enjoy many types of verbal circuits.
Second, broadcasting one’s deliberations is like realizing sporting goals. One needs to be fit, persistent, and fortunate to win among physical contenders. Correspondingly, one needs to have skills, tenacity, and blessing to get published. Merely wanting to see one’s moniker shining in the public sector is no more sufficient than merely wanting to win a race or to score the most bulls eyes among a company of archers.
Third, stringing together coherent groups of words is like cookery. Given similar ingredients, no two professional chefs will prepare identical items even if they cook the same dishes. Most often, nonetheless, given identical ingredients, they’ll cook dissimilar foods. In essence, if two chefs are given a kilo of tomatoes, one might chop those veggies into small squares and then mix those squares with equally diminutive pieces of cucumber, add a dressing, and then call the results “Israeli Salad.” Another chef might, instead, puree the fruits, supplement them with garlic, parsley, and onion, boil the mixture over a low flame for hours, and then call the results “pasta sauce.” Both dishes could be delicious.
Proportionately, given identical devices, such as connected series of occurrences, three-dimensional characters, well explicated settings, and so forth, no two authors will prepare identical items even if they labor in the same genre. Most often, though, given identical components, they’ll design disparate manuscripts. For example, if two word players are given a young, love-struck couple, France, and the machinations of war, with which to work, one might locate their tale in Paris, present their protagonists as elderly tourists, and frame the war as one between natives and Martians. Another author might locate their tale in Bourg-en-Bresse, present their heroes as locals, and frame the war as among generations of a single family. Both stories could be toothsome.
Fourth, the province of pushing around mindsets is akin to the province of being a fashionista. Devoted followers of “in things” tend to busy themselves with the schemes they use for dressing. That is to say that they are notorious for spending lots of time adding and subtracting accessories. Their outfits are pulled together based on personal taste, shared fads, and their knowledge of marketing. The more experience that a devoted follower of fashion has with adapting their clothing, the better they are at creating “exactly correct” ensembles. Besides, many influencers are recognized for their ability to transcend function; they mix and match.
In the same sense, wordies devoted to classic presentations of thoughts tend to busy themselves with diction. They are notorious, too, for spending lots of time adding and subtracting words. Their voiced “outfits” are pulled together based on personal taste, shared fads, and their knowledge of marketing. The more experience that a language adept has with controlling rhetorical situations, the better they are at creating “exactly correct” ensembles. Besides, many originators are recognized for functionally limitless storytelling methodologies; they mix and match.
Fifth, manipulating concepts is comparable to poisoning. Just as all manner of liquids and solids can be employed to severely harm parties, so, too, can all manner of words be employed for destruction. Toxic substances and venom can be used to injure or to kill. Biocides and intoxicants, plus banes exuded by spiders, insects, fish, and snakes, can be used for nefarious reasons.
Analogously, jotted down passions can be used for disreputable objectives; writing can worsen readers’ and/or word slingers’ mental states. After witnessing a particularly moving passage, persons with psychoses might be spurred to crawl deeper into their darkness. Narrative craft can, per the same principle, destroy people who make books. Chew on the self-ruination of Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway.
Conversely, corralling words can be like healing. Making people whole and healthy can happen using an array of techniques. Both allopathic and alternative systems can be used to improve health. In cases of cancer, for instance, hard core conventional modalities, such as radiation or surgery, can often best extend the quality or length of patients’ lives. In cases of pain management, fertility, and electrolyte balancing, alternative modalities, such as herbal treatments, acupuncture, or homeopathy, can often best extend the quality or length of patients’ lives.
Manuscription, equivalently, generates healing and does so via both traditional and cutting-edge procedures. There’s still a demand for metered verse in the poetry world, particularly as those rhythms soothe avid readers. Likewise, there’ an understanding that well scripted fiction can help sufferers of various illnesses learn to effectively express themselves. Inversely, new-fangled literature, as evidenced by audio and/or video presentations, principally bits and bobs that allow audiences to interact with words, fabricate opportunities for convalescents to rise above their sticking points, to discover solutions to anxieties, mild depressions, and other neurosis.
Basically, uninitiated people, who interpret the act of documenting thinking, are like the six blind men of India interpreting the elephant. Those amateurs’ views are truthful, but limited - they need to be merged with others’ perceptions. Only when many newbies’ outlooks are interwoven does an encompassing picture of manuscript development begin to take shape.
1. John Godfrey Saxe. “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” Poetryhunter.com. Retrieved June 19, 2018. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-blind-man-and-the-elephant/.