When circus elephants are very young, they are tethered to a pole in the ground for training purposes. One of the elephant’s back legs has a collar around it, attached to a chain, which leads to a pole that is anchored in the ground. The young elephant walks a little ways, but then comes to the end of the chain and is stopped by the anchored pole. The baby elephant learns that this is their reality.
As the elephant grows, s/he learns that the length of territory that can be explored is the area contained by the radius of that chain and pole. Slowly, the elephant is ingrained in knowing that the distance s/he can travel is that chain-to-rope radius.
When the elephant grows to be full size, s/he has great mass, power, and strength. The 10-foot tall, 5,000 pound hulk could easily snap the chain, uproot the pole, and escape to freedom. But it does not do that. In fact it does not even try. The world’s most powerful animal, which can uproot a tree as easily as you and I can break a toothpick, remains tied down by a small peg and a flimsy chain.
The baby elephant’s chain and pole is represented in our experience by limitations on our creativity and imagination such as “it’s always been done that way…”, the natural resistance to change, or other real or perceived limitations. The circus elephant can teach us to take a fresh look at our environment and our own potential, and reevaluate.
**No animal was harmed in the writing of this blog.