Is the Whole Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts?

I wonder. The whole is made up of the incorporated parts…if some parts are less than, broken or in some way incapacitated, doesn’t the whole suffer?

This quote has been attributed to Aristotle. However, I read recently that the author is unknown. I don’t know in which language this quote was first spoken. Perhaps Ancient Greek. Was it correctly or incorrectly translated? Where did the original author place emphasis…what did he actually intend by what he said? We perceive things with our own knowledge lens.

If I’m baking something and I have an inferior product or an ingredient that has gone sour, it’s going to affect the outcome…the cake, the bread, whatever. I depend upon wholesome ingredients. That’s the metaphor for us humans–each one of us gets to do our individual work. In that way, we combine to making the whole a better one.

When looking for change in the world, we must first look within. Recently, I said something to my sister-in-law like “We have got to step up and be active about climate change.” She turned it around and said “They need to do things differently.” She took herself out of the equation. She wasn’t seeing how her voice could make a difference or how her choices were also complicit if she didn’t do something differently. As long as we take ourselves out of the equation as a component or a change-maker, then there won’t be anything new. The parts either weaken or strengthen the whole.

There are many ways to interpret this quote to fit one’s particular needs. Another perspective is that the whole is better than could be expected from the individual parts. That a communal solution to a problem is going to be better than one person’s problem-solving ability. A community, the more heads are better than one, is superior to the individual. That, combining the educated solutions, a distillation of wisdom can be produced by the whole.

Yet, I return to this…the whole is the sum of its parts. If a part is inferior, the whole is affected. My ex-husband was a fire-fighter. He entered the fire department in San Francisco at a time when women were fighting for their right to be firefighters as well as other jobs that had been in the exclusive domain of men. I interviewed a woman firefighter for a class that I was taking at the local community college. She was nearly six feet tall and buff. She worked out regularly. A question that many of the wives of firefighters asked was “Could you pull my 200-pound husband out of a burning building?” This strong young woman was capable. Yet, this field of work requires teamwork. If there was a 5’4″ female (or male) who couldn’t do their part, the whole team is weakened.

These are some of my early morning musings. I’ve heard this quote for a good part of my life. Sometimes, we hear something often enough, we think that it must be true. Ah, not necessarily so. There is always room to question what we assume is so.

What are your early morning musings?

The Scroll

the scroll

These days, we rarely (if ever) see someone standing on a podium reading from a scroll.  At least, I don’t.  Decrees, notices, announcements, rules, regulations, messages.

This painting evolved from a class taught in Paint Your Heart and Soul.  The angel looks a bit worried.  As if she isn’t looking forward to reading the message on the scroll.  We all want good tidings.  Perhaps it’s time to write your own message and start sharing it with others.

When 911 happened, the soul plummeted.  A dear friend and I went for a walk in the forest.  He often recalled that was the best action to take at such a time.

Beyond that, what could we do–in the moment?  What did taking action at a time when we felt so helpless look like?  I opened my books of poetry and began searching for and finding hopeful verses.  I wrote them on postcards and sent them out anonymously to friends, old and new.  To family.

What message would you like to read from your scroll?  These difficult days, sending something good off into the world helps to counterbalance the barrage of challenging news. It’s an easy thing to do.  You don’t have to go anywhere (except to mail them) and  you don’t have to sign it unless you want to.

As I’ve noted before, we aren’t letter writers typically.  However, we can write a postcard.  Imagine what a surprise it would be for you to receive a postcard with a message of hope or support from someone you haven’t heard from in years!