One of my all-time favorite philosophical comments was shared at a gathering of women regarding various views of religion. It was said to have originally been made by a chaplain consoling a soldier in a war zone: “We’ve all been given a little bit of the truth.”

It reminds me of the three blind men describing an elephant by touch, confident of their description of the legs, versus the ears, versus the trunk.

I’ve become a fan of looking at and thinking of things in terms of focus and framing. I guess I never fully grasped the “filters” thing, although I like the concept. And I do value the phrase: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Which all somehow reminds me of the story I heard a couple times about looking at things.

It’s said that Native Americans first noticed the change in ripples of the water before they saw the ship in the sea. The explorers looming vessel couldn’t have any real meaning for them until they could literally see it. They began to fully grasp the situation by focusing on something familiar and important to them and their way of life, then enlarging the frame all the way from their shores to the horizon.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

A guiding principle I took away from a training years ago (and was also referred to in an old series we watched during the pandemic) is: “There’s what happens, and the story you tell about it.” Sometimes it gets reduced down to being either a victim or a survivor. It’s easier to get to thrive from one than the other.

And there’s time — a big concept. There are the fleeting moments of a falling star and the ponderous days of planets circling in orbit.

I heard a pastor say that if it had been three wise women they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable and brought practical gifts. There are slight variations on that theme to include making casserole, aka hotdish. Singing lullabies might’ve been nice.

So, 2020. Some things were fleeting and elusive. Some things are still following an elliptical course. Anyway, the promise of a vaccine is a practical gift of great value.

Whether guided by a flash of understanding, a more studious approach, or both, may we all author our own stories. By focusing both on ripples nearby and scanning all the way to the horizon, we might thereby discern our own bit of truth to share with the world.