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A Blind Man Carrying a Lantern

Posted by tinako on June 8, 2009

This week’s zen comic from Zen Speaks:

When a blind man was leaving his friend’s house, the friend handed him a lantern to take on his way.  The blind man said, “I don’t need a lantern.  It’s all the same to me whether it’s dark or light.”

“I know, but if you don’t have a light with you, someone might accidentally run into you.”

“Oh, all right.”

So the blind man is running along with the lantern in one hand and his cane in the other, when he and another man collide.  The blind man calls out, “Can’t you see a light right in front of your face?!”

To which the other man replies, “Hey, buddy, your light was already out!”

The narrator pipes in, “Using another person’s ideas to enlighten other people is like the blind man carrying a lantern…  The light may go out along the way, and you’ll never even know.”

Up until my sophomore year of college, I used to read literature for my English classes, and then, because I wasn’t sure what the story meant, and didn’t see any way of figuring it out on my own, I would look up commentary on it.  Then I knew what it meant.  Then, finally, I had some professors who questioned me on my conclusions.  “This doesn’t make sense,” they would write on my papers.  I looked, and indeed, it did not make sense.  It had not really made sense before, but I figured the professional literary critic who thought of it knew better than a punk like me.  I snicker now to think of some of the conclusions those critics came to.  They surely had PhD’s in English, and they were wrong wrong wrong.  This is the point when I began to trust myself, and I have never forgotten that even people who have a doctorate in something can be ridiculously, laughably, wrong.

So often I am having a conversation with someone, and they say something that I am certain they can have given no thought to, and I realize they have probably heard this somewhere and it sounded good so they are passing it along.  It’s one of those ideas that goes around with no one questioning it.  I particularly notice this with people who enjoy Fox news.  When I (politely) challenge them to support what they have just said, they are completely at a loss.  They may spout more, equally empty  platitudes, but there is no substance to their speech.  Thoughts don’t have to be original, but they should be at least well-considered.

What does this have to do with food?  There is so much misinformation floating around about animal products.  There are truths that are deliberately hidden, about treatment of animals, about the effects of this stuff on our bodies, about what we need to eat.  There is strange logic that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.  There is moral hair-splitting, cognitive dissonance, and indifference.  This babble comes from our politicians, our government, media, industry, friends, and family, even me!  Don’t just take my word for all this stuff – never – question everything I say!  If we took a moment to listen to what we say, both to ourselves and to others, and weed out that which we know to be true from that which we merely repeat, maybe we can all end up somewhere closer to the truth.

Let’s not carry the lanterns that are handed to us.  Let’s light our own.

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2 Responses to “A Blind Man Carrying a Lantern”

  1. […] We discussed the story afterwards, and realized that for all his strength and skill as a knight, it was compassion that was the trait that mattered most.  We also realized that sometimes we get advice that isn’t so great, or that we misunderstand, and that we should follow our hearts and think for ourselves. […]

  2. […] Humor is a great way to highlight the truth, and satire allows us to see things about ourselves that we would be uncomfortable with in another format.  What a waste, to be blind men carrying lanterns. […]

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