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“Not only is there but one way of doing things rightly, but there is only one way of seeing them, and that is, seeing the whole of them” (John Ruskin).
WITH MOST THINGS, YOU CAN THINK OF THE WHOLE OR YOU CAN THINK OF THE PARTS. Sometimes it’s necessary to identify and examine the parts, but that analysis doesn’t do much good if we forget the whole situation the parts are a part of. The “trees” may be interesting, but it’s dangerous to lose sight of the “forest.”
As finite beings with limited powers of observation and understanding, we’re not going to see the complete whole of anything we deal with. But even so, there’s great wisdom in always trying to see as much of reality as we can. Many, if not most, of our mistakes come from taking into account only a part of the truth, so we help ourselves greatly when we take the time to understand more of the subject, to hear more of the evidence, and to see more of the picture.
Not only should we try to see more of the whole of things, but wholeness itself is a characteristic worth valuing. We should appreciate it, honoring and giving thanks for things that are whole and healthy. We should aspire to it, making wholeness in all things one of our ideals. And we should contribute to it, playing a positive role in making the things around us more whole rather than tearing them apart.
Wholeness is even something we should seek within ourselves, and “integrity” is the word that describes this kind of wholeness. Integrity is oneness or unity between our character and our conduct. When our outer practice is in harmony with our inner principles, then we experience a wholeness that is one of life’s best possessions.
But in the most important sense, personal wholeness does not come from trying to integrate or unify the various parts of ourselves; it comes from taking our rightful place in relation to the larger reality of the world outside of ourselves. There is no wholeness without a peaceful conscience, and there’s no peacefulness of conscience without doing our simple, individual duty to the world that is our home.
“You exist but as a part inherent in a greater whole. Do not live as though you had a thousand years before you. The common due impends; while you live, and while you may, be good” (Marcus Aurelius).