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The Blind Men and the Elephant

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he:
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

When Kim is asked to explain Integrative Law, she often starts with the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant.  For years, she even carried a stuffed elephant, designed and made by our friend, Diana Baumbauer.  The fabric illustrates the poem:  brown wood-grained legs, a brick wall back, braided rope tail, etc.  It is a good teaching tool and visual for talking about systems change, a complex concept.  (It also makes a nice pillow on the airplane.)

Integrative Law is like that elephant.  There are many angles and pieces to the movement.  Many people have a clear view of one part and know nothing of the others.  Some have a vague idea about the other parts of the movement.   Others have a sense of the whole elephant without distinguishing the various pieces. Some of the distinctions overlap the others.  

Legal training artificially assumes that life can be compartmentalized.  In real life, a car accident is a complex set of circumstances that we sort into artificial categories.  We lawyers categorize the car accident and say that the criminal charges for driving under the influence are handled by one court, the criminal system; the liability is a tort, handled by another.  The facts may be shaped differently for each approach. 

The holistic approach to the movement, as symbolized by the Elephant, has been enjoyed by so many people that the Elephant became a sort of mascot and icon for the Integrative Law Movement.