The Truth of the Elephant
By Emily Johnson
Blind men surround an elephant, all ahold of a different part of its body—trunk, leg, ear—each claiming what they feel is correct. Trunk is a thin rope, leg a pillar, ear a fan. Each truthful to what they feel, yet none able to know the whole; it is an elephant, not rope, pillar, fan. They do not see, so stay firm to what only they know. So proves no one path is correct for all, yet no one way is comprehensive. Thus the philosophy teacher explains a metaphor for Buddhism, beliefs in general, he muses. Everyone has a different path.
An unassuming young boy in the middle of the classroom sits hunched, eyes down, breath ceased. Never has he doubted his religion. These lectures, global perspective credits, required classes, “are not meant to make you question or change your beliefs, but to learn about and understand different beliefs.” But yet?
Devoted believers and atheists converge, come together in class to pull apart, quarrel—“debate”
they insist—but who are they fooling when their lips turn to needles listening to obviously absurd arguments in opposition, when they can be heard across and down the hall forcing their ideals into classmate’s gullets for them to chew like cud, when their eyes glaze with offense?
The boy stays silent, hearing but not listening. His eyes are focused on the cracked, embodied tile two feet in front of him. How could he have thought there was only one truth? Blindly following with enlightenment and opportunities for exploration slapping his cheeks raw daily. As ignorant as thinking his thoughts original (actually banal, egocentric). And now what? Can’t
share doubts, “The devil,” they say, “will tempt you.” Definite way to be disowned. But yet?
He stays mute, and doubts his constructed world in solitude.
Emily Johnson is a first year creative nonfiction writing MFA student at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She originates from a small Wisconsin town, Amery, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 2015, where she worked as an editor on the University literary magazine. She enjoys yoga, reading Bill Bryson, and playing fetch with her cat (who doesn’t always remember the point of the game).