One Saturday morning, I told a class of young workshoppers (much younger than my usual college learners) the story of the six blind men and the elephant, how one thought the elephant was a tree because he was hugging the leg (like so); how another argued it was a fan because he held the ears between his palms (like so); and how another was sure it was a snake and he was cupping the tip of the trunk because it could be a venomous head. But one blind man rested his back on the elephant's side (like so, leaning back with arms crossed), quite content, certain that whatever the elephant was, it was a wall, while the other grasped the tail (like so), glad to know the elephant was a rope, sad he had no strength (or eyes!) to flail the damned truth against the heads of his colleagues.
The last blind man was silent, the bickerings of the others heard by him, but he was focused on keeping his hand pat on the point of the ivory trunk (like so), because only he knew the need for vigilance against movement, only he owned his blindness and hated it: for he stood at the unfortunate end of a poised spear!
I admit that I thought I lost the students then, this discussion reaching levels that I thought impenetrable to them (despite my gestures). I stopped and searched their eyes for some cue to shift stories in midstream.
A girl with curious ponytails raised her hand (and this happened a year ago, but I still remember how her palm touched the upper air as if it were palpable) and asked: "Was this elephant alive or not?
"Do they know?"