Sunday, March 26, 2006


Two bothers were walking home from school on a path in the woods, discussing their latest philosophy lesson. About 50 paces in front of them a bird waits in a tree.

Startled by their conversation the bird takes flight, first away from the brothers and then towards them. Flying quickly, the bird passes between the two such that each sees but one side of the bird.

The younger brother, walking on the right side of the path asks his elder brother if he has even seen a cardinal as big as the one that just flew past. "All I saw was a blur of red."

The elder brother, with a patronizing expression of his face says that all he saw was a blur of black. "It was a raven," he asserts.

"Nonsense," the younger brother retorts, offended. "It was clearly a red bird. Are you color blind?"

"You know I'm not," the elder brother replies. "What do you know about birds anyway, you aren't a student of nature like I am."

Silenced by their rebukes, the two boys walked along nursing thoughts of the others' foolish obstinacy.

Upon reaching home and seeing their father outside the two brothers ran to him each proclaiming their story in renewed argument. Talking turned to shouting and the argument degenerated into name calling.

The father quieted his two boys and then, in an attempt to change the topic, asked them what they studied in school that day.

"Philosophy," they said in one voice. "We talked about pluralism vs monism."

"How interesting," the father responded. "And were you persuaded to take a side in the debate?"

"We are both pluralists," said the elder brother. "Haven't you been telling us for years that only God could see the universe as a unity."

Holding back a chuckle, the father told him he was correct. "Yes, I did say that. But it seems you missed some of my meaning."

"Perhaps," he went on, "one or both of you are incorrect in your perceptions. However, you might also both be correct."

"What?," they responded, totally bemused.

"Perhaps the bird was black on one side and red on the other. You are both trying to extend your limited perspective to the entire object and perhaps obscuring the truth as you do. Sometimes the truth of the matter is neither left nor right, nor a synthesis of the views both both together."