In Nigerian mythology, there is a deity that goes by the name of Eshu. There’s an important story about him that might be helpful for us to develop our understanding about the importance of valuing other peoples’ perspective. This discussion is not meant to convey anything in particular about spirituality or religion, but instead it is meant to show you a good metaphor for a certain type of conflict we have all gotten into at one point or another.
It helps to understand that Eshu is known as a “trickster” or “jokester” in his mythology. This means that his role in human lives is to teach people lessons by playing tricks on them and sometimes making them the punch lines to his cosmic jokes.
One day Eshu decides to visit a small village and on this occasion he also decides to we ara suit that is half red and half blue. His entire left side is red and his entire right side is blue. In addition to the suit, he’s wears a tall hat, which is also red on the left side and blue on the right side.So Eshu, in his half red and half blue suit and hat, walks directly down the Main Street,starting in some old farm country and then moves through the busy little city. As he begins, in the earliest rays of dawn, he walks silently past two farmers. One farmer is on the left side of the road, and one is on the right side of the road. Both farmers stop digging their soil and planting their seeds just for a moment and make note of the man walking by,both noticing what color suit and hat he’s wearing, before returning to their digging and planting.
Eshu then walks on, through the village and town center and back out of town, making no sound as he passes along the shops and public meeting places on his right and the little village houses and apartments on his left. On the right side of the road, people are hustling and bustling about at their jobs and for just a moment they each make note of the manw alking through down in his tall hat and long suit.
On the left side of the road, parents and their young children are preparing meals and taking care of their homes and each of them looks up for just a moment to catch a glimpse of the man walking quietly down Main Street.
As night falls, and everyone has finished their work and duties for the day, they all get together for their daily public meeting at the city’s center. This is where they talk about upcoming events, community needs and other concerns.
At one point during the meeting, the farmer on the right side of the road raises his hand and asks the crowd of townspeople, “Does anyone know who that man was that was wearing the blue suit and hat?” Half of the other villagers agree with his line of questioning,saying things like, “Yeah, who was that?” The other half of the villagers starts to speak up in disagreement and voices are raised.
Then the other farmer, from the left side of the road stands up and says, “Hey, I saw him,but he wasn’t wearing a blue suit at all. It was red!” Then the two farmers get into a heated debate about what color suit and hat the silent stranger was wearing. This leads to a massive fight breaking out and all the villagers are screaming at each other about what color outfit the man was dressed in. From that day on, there was a split in the village. In future disputes, each villager took sides with one farmer or the other and it became very difficult to reach a resolution on anything. Somewhere far away, Eshu was giggling about the trick he had played, wondering if anyone would ever learn the true lesson.
What did you learn? It’s easy for you to see what went wrong in this situation because you already have the answer. As you know, all of the villagers saw the same exact man walking past them, and each of them was partially right about the color of his suit and hat. No one was necessarily “wrong” about it and not one person got it completely right either.
In this story of Eshu, the truth is relative to the observer. Each person draws a valid conclusion based on what they saw and their belief about what they saw depends on what side of the road they were on. Ultimately, all of the villagers missed the big picture which required them to put both sides together.
This would have taken a lot from them. It would only work if they could suspend their own beliefs, while considering the possible truth from the other side’s perspective. This does not mean that they switch sides of the debate, but instead they truly listen to each side and consider what might have led to the division among the villagers. Since no one took on this task, everyone missed the much bigger picture. This metaphor may not apply to every situation, but it definitely applies to a lot of them that we’ve all come across. Each of us has been in situations like this, and we can all think of at least a handful where this same lesson was never learned. What’s important is that we keep an eye on our own assumptions and be willing to consider the perspectives of people we might disagree with. By doing so, we can all benefit from it. Remember that somewhere out there, someone else has another side of the picture, which you will need in order to see what’s truly going on.