Are we ever truly alone and separate? Or is there something bigger we are a part of?
Holism is the view that everything must be taken within the context of a greater whole. To some, this is an intuitive concept: cells must be understood within the system of the body, individual animals within the ecosystem, each ecosystem within the global environment, planets within galaxies, etc.
But holism has much greater potential than simply an intellectual tool. For example, when we judge ourselves or others for misaligned behaviors, holism asks us to reflect upon what brought those things about: What emotions drove us to that outburst? What in our psyche caused us to react that way? Holism opens ourselves to a greater degree of compassion for ourselves and others through systematic analysis, as well as loving acceptance of another being you are integrally connected with.
Holism posits the paradox that even though we are each an irreducible and un-substitutable individual (one need only contemplate the infinite uniqueness of a single leaf on a tree, a tree within a forest), we are all still informed, shaped, connected to, and fulfilled by a unified system that is us far more than any sense of self divorced from the rest of reality.
This kind of metaphysical holism has astounding implications. It proposes that each person is greater than his or her individual self. It creates a new way of relating to fellow human beings, in that each is understood to be invaluable in his or her contribution and very being, a reflection and powerful element of the system as a whole.
Rather than any individual perspective becoming dominant, all become prisms with which to refract the same light; this is not to denounce critical rigor, but rather to transform argumentation into constructive conversation and curious discourse.
Overall, holism means loving oneself and finding oneself as oneself. We can never fully know, because there is always more to learn, to discover, and to love. The process and systematic whole is reflected in the beauty of each aspect, animal, plant, river, planet, star, and person, and each reveals another verse of the great mystery of life. We need only open our eyes to see and ears to listen.
About our guest author:
David Rauenzahn is a long-time seeker of deeper meaning. A recent Religious Studies graduate from Reed College, David spent the majority of his academic career pursuing perennial truths and the connections between objective truths, consciousness, and perspective. He is currently looking to bring dialectical techniques into politics to engender a holistic political environment that seeks a cooperative synthesis of values and perspective.