Today is a snow day. Actually, it is a day of freezing rain, but the schools are closed and that means I will not make trips to spend time with two little boys before and after school. I say “spend time” because “babysit” because the term is painful to an 8-year-old and 10-year-old, and “caretaker” sounds like I am gardening. Anyway, today I am home and can write some long overdue posts. I love writing in the morning. I love writing in my pajamas… that reminds me of the old Groucho Marx schtick “I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”
I didn’t mean to talk about elephants. But here I am, thinking of them. Some people consider elephants symbols of strength – removers of obstacles. To others, they are keepers of memory and wisdom. Some regard them as mere objects to trade, or beasts of burden, or animals we only see in zoos. Elephants are seen as social beings, empathetic, and self-aware. In the writings of Rumi, the elephant is a symbol of perspective. Rumi explains that several wise men came into a dark room, in which stood an elephant. They could not see the elephant, so they used their hands to discover the animal. One man touched the elephant’s trunk.
“This animal is like a sturdy water spout,” he declared.
Another put his hand on the animal’s ear.
“He is just like a fan,” he said.
Each man laid his palm on the elephant, and each one imagined a different animal.
Rumi explains that man focuses on one aspect of his life, and sees only that. He can see white foam on a sea, imagining storms, but in fact the sea is quite calm and beautiful. He may look at a problem, or his life, with a narrowed perspective, and neglect to see the larger picture. The elephant in the room is demanding and solid to him. But the elephant may be a remover of obstacles, a reason to move in a different direction, or a tool to progress. The elephant is opportunity.
When you are presented with a problem, try to think of it as that elephant. Change your perspective, touch on every angle, and discover your own strength. Only then will the elephant move out of the dark room and into the light.
What do elephants have to do with snow days?
Maybe nothing. Or maybe everything. It all depends on your perspective.