Embracing our blindness

A fable tells the story about six blind men and how they tried to make sense of an elephant. The first man thought the elephant is a wall, for he felt its broad and sturdy side. The second man, spear, for he touched its tusk. The third man, snake, for he felt its trunk. The fourth man, tree, for he touched its knee. The fifth man, fan, for he felt its ear. The sixth man, rope, for he touched its tail. The fable ended with the six men arguing—each were partly right, but their limited senses cannot make sense of the entirety of the elephant.

The fable’s moral lesson is still very relevant in today’s time. The world has become so siloed due to the need to specialize. After all, it is highly focused technical expertise that pushes the boundaries of a field and create new knowledge. However, having a very narrow tunnel vision prevents us from getting meaningful insights and solving complex problems. The failure to be aware of our blindness likens us to the arrogance of the six blind men. They reveled in their technical rightness based on their subjective perspectives, but they failed to make sense of the entirety of the elephant because they argued instead of collaborating. In business, this is akin to department heads proposing solutions that only consider their disciplines. In the realm of Philippine politics, this is what’s happening between pro-administration (derogatorily labelled as ‘Dutertards’) anti-administration (derogatorily labelled as ‘Yellowtards’) citizens—they continue to troll each other as ‘keyboard warriors’ in social media.  

What we need is to be aware of our blindness—embrace it even. Alone, we are limited; but together, we can build on each other’s perspectives and arrive at better solutions to complex problems. Embracing our blindness does not mean choosing to ignore other’s world-views and imposing our own. Rather, embracing our blindness means having the values of humility and empathy. We need to be humble because we are never infallible. We need empathy because only then can we make sense of the harsh realities we live in.

In the academe, we call this as the pursuit of inter-disciplinarity, wherein scholars go beyond their trained disciplines to embrace emerging world-views from authentic collaboration with other experts. But doesn’t Filipino culture already have a term for this?  Bayanihan. Its closest English translation is solidarity and unity, yet it also connotes heroism founded on sacrificing not each other, but for each other.  

Let us not put ourselves anymore to the level of the six blind men—arguing, bickering, and even trolling each other to defend our own limited world-views. As individuals and as a society, we may have advanced in technology and our lifestyles. But we have become more blind to our blindness. Instead, let us acknowledge our limitations. Only by building on each other’s perspectives can we truly move forward. As professionals, let us embrace the call for inter-disciplinarity. As citizens, let us go back to our values—bayanihan—and become heroes not against, but for each other.

Patrick Adriel H. Aure is an Assistant Professor at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, and head of the Social Enterprise Research Network of the Center for Business Research and Development of De La Salle University. He can be reached at [email protected] The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.

Topics: Green Light , Embracing our blindness
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