Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip.
After a good meal and a bottle of wine they bunked down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”
Watson replied, “I see millions upon millions of stars.”
“So what does that tell you?” asked Sherlock.
Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”
Holmes was silent for a minute and then spoke. “It tells me someone has stolen our tent!”
I like to tell this story in retreats and courses when we’re talking about the differing perceptions people bring to a conflict. And of how easy it is to miss the forest for the trees when we’re stuck in conflict or helping others navigate it.