“All true educators since the time of Socrates and Plato have agreed that the primary object of education is the attainment of inner harmony, or, to put it into more up-to-date language, the integration of the personality. Without such an integration, learning is no more than a collection of scraps, and the accumulation of knowledge becomes a danger to mental health” (Alfred Zimmern).
INTEGRATION MEANS BRINGING ALL THE PARTS OF SOMETHING TOGETHER, THEREBY MAKING A UNIFIED WHOLE. The verb “disintegrate” means to tear apart, and so to “integrate” means to put back together what has been broken or fractured or separated.
In a world of strife and discord, the goal of social integration is obviously desirable. What a better world it would be if all the parts of humanity could be integrated into a more unified whole! But I want you to think about something: we are fighting a losing battle trying to bring other people together socially if we are not integrated within ourselves privately. Social harmony or oneness will always be an elusive goal for people who have no unity inside of themselves.
The psychologists talk a good deal about the “integration of the personality,” and, in fact, most people’s personal traits and tendencies are not integrated. They are at odds, and often at war, with one another. So counselors would like to help us bring our various attributes into a more harmonious whole. And whether a psychologist helps us with that or not, personal integration is certainly a project we need to work on. In plain language, we need to “get ourselves together.”
But the importance of this goes beyond just feeling better emotionally. As you may have noticed, the words “integration” and “integrity” are related. They both come from a Latin root meaning “whole” or “complete.” So if we have no personal integration, then we have no integrity. For example, if there is no unity between our conscience and our conduct, or if our “preaching” and our “practice” are not in agreement, then this lack of integrity is a serious problem (one that goes by the name of “hypocrisy”). So we need to get busy integrating our personal characteristics. If life is to be good, the parts have to harmonize.
“No truths are simple . . . But as we pursue them and participate in them more fully, they begin to reveal to us a life deeper and more integrated than we ever could have known otherwise” (Tim Hansel).