Detectives gather clues to build up the case, they do not limit themselves to one clue. Yet doctors might hobble their patients to one symptom. The story[i] below “the elephant in the dark house” also shows how a blinkered approach may not give the full picture.

“The elephant was in a dark house; some Hindus had brought it for exhibition.

In order to see it, many people were going, every one, into that darkness.
As seeing it with the eye was impossible, [each one] was feeling it in the dark with the palm of his hand..
The hand of one fell on its trunk; he said: “This creature is like a water-pipe.”
The hand of another touched its ear: to him it appeared to be like a fan.
Since another handled its leg, he said: “I found the elephant’s shape to be like a pillar.”
Another laid his hand on its back: he said, “Truly, this elephant was like a throne.”
Similarly, whenever anyone heard [a description of the elephant]. he understood [it only in respect of] the part that he had touched.
On account of the [diverse] place [object] of view, their statements differed: one man titled it “dal [3],” another “alif.”
If there had been a candle in each one’s hand, the difference would have gone out of their words.”

Is the candle of discovery for the physician thoroughness?


Striving for aequanimitas,


John Mary Meagher



The legend comes from the Pali in the 200 bce. The Sufi master Jalal ud-din-i Rumi (1207-1273 c.e.) used the story n his Mathnawi.


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