On the Elephant in Our Country: Making Sense of Occupation

On my nightstand sit the two books that I am currently making my way through: Steve Jobs by William Isaacson, and The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.

Rumi and Jobs.

In life we exist in contrast, always.

I am reminded of this daily. My nightstand sits in my bedroom  - which is in a building that stands a mere 6 blocks from the Occupy San Francisco encampment.

And I struggle with that dichotomy. No issue presented is black and white. And so we are all here, straddling the gray.

In the end, I believe that we are all searching for something quite similar. And while we are different, this search for what can make us happy, healthy, and whole is completely universal.

In reading Rumi this week, I came across a favorite. Rumi describes a scene in which many people view an elephant in a dark room, and all come out with different views of what defines an elephant.

Ganesha Street Art - Artist Unknown - Photo courtesy, MC Yogi

The Elephant in the Dark

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.
No one here has ever seen an elephant.
They bring it at night to a dark room.
One by one, we go in the dark and come out
saying how we experience the animal.

One of us happens to touch the trunk.
"A water-pipe kind of creature."
Another, the ear. "A very strong, always moving
back and forth, fan-animal."
Another, the leg. "I find it still,
like a column on a temple."
Another touches the curved back.
"A leathery throne."
Another, the cleverest, feels the tusk.
"A rounded sword made of porcelain." 
He's proud of his description.

Each of us touches one place
and understands the whole in that way.

The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark are
how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.

If each of us held a candle there,
and if we went in together,
we could see it. 


We are all here in the same room, in the dark, making sense of a world that we see from our own unique perspectives.

We are all here with the elephant, trying to understand how the parts make a whole.

So no matter how you feel about the Occupy movement, we should all be reminded that our perspective colors our world. 

I have no answers about how to make a candle bright enough to light the way out, like Rumi offers. 

But I know that the world is made better through compassion and empathy.

And I believe that we should honor each other.

Bowing to our neighbor - perhaps not in agreement - but in understanding.

I know you want to be happy. I want that, too. 

Not a candle, but a spark.