In his writings compiled in Metaphysics, the Greek Philosopher Aristotle expressed the idea that the whole of something is greater than the sum of its parts. When we look at something from this perspective, we are able to see and appreciate its entirety. If we take that same thing and break it down to its parts, we no longer have that same perspective. We focus on certain aspects of those parts, dissect and analyze, and in that process, the essence of its wholeness is lost. Holistic, as a concept originates from the term holism, coined by Jan Christiaan Smuts in Holism and Evolution. He pioneered the concept of holism which in its most basic form is the idea that everything in the universe including all of humanity is naturally evolving toward wholeness.
How many things in the universe can we fully appreciate in their entirety? Have you ever considered the whole of the forest and not just the tree? When you stand on a precipice from a mountain top and look to the horizon, you see and appreciate the beauty and vastness of the forest from a whole different perspective than if you were to stand beside a single tree. The same holds true of human beings. If we really look at the whole of humanity and who we are as human beings, we get a glimpse of that wholeness and interconnectedness. We see and appreciate the beauty and wonder of each and every life that is contributing to the whole of humanity.
The whole of who we are as individuals is greater than the sum of our parts. Our true essence cannot be measured by a part of who we are as human beings. As a whole, we are each one of us a body, mind, and spirit. When you break down each part by labeling, classifying, judging, dissecting, and categorizing, you end up with a mechanistic understanding of those parts, not a holistic understanding. A holistic understanding illuminates the path to wholeness where we value each and every part of the whole and appreciate the interconnectedness of each part.
Why is this so important? If we want to help ease suffering, a holistic perspective is essential to healing. We need to create a culture that supports this idea of wholeness so that we can help improve the quality of life for everyone. We need to challenge the culture of shame and stigma that measures a human being by their health condition, a symptom, label, impairment, or disability. If a human being is measured by their suffering or limitation rather than by their humanity, they are dehumanized. The whole of that human being is diminished. This makes healing very difficult because when you focus on someone’s most vulnerable and limiting experiences that cause suffering, the end result is greater suffering. The whole of humanity is affected by this response to suffering.
When you focus on the whole human being, and not just on a health condition, compassion is the only human response you will have. You can relate to a whole person more than you can relate to a health condition -- they are just like you, only they are suffering. You can respond to their suffering in a way that reflects your own humanity rather than getting caught up in what goes on in your mind when you think about their health condition. Your understanding and response to what they are experiencing becomes rooted in compassion when you look at the whole person. This is the gift of a holistic perspective. The whole of who we are as human beings is extraordinary. When we value each and every part of the whole, we value each and every life. Collectively, we have the ability to ease the suffering of others through compassion. We have the ability to heal and to help others heal by virtue of our shared humanity. Compassion is the true healer. It is because of this undeniable truth that the whole of who we are is greater than the sum of our parts.
Copyright © 2016. Sylvia Carlson. All Rights Reserved.
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