Something described as holistic is characterized by the belief that the parts of something are interconnected and can be explained only by reference to the whole.
Holism is the interdisciplinary idea that systems possess properties as wholes apart from the properties of their component parts. The concept of holism informs the methodology for a broad array of scientific fields and lifestyle practices.
You may have heard of holistic medicine which is the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of an illness.
I knew the term from my years in education. Education with a holistic perspective is concerned with the development of every person’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, creative, and spiritual potential. It seeks to engage students in the teaching/learning process and encourages personal and collective responsibility.
I have seen the word appear connected to religion. Holistic ministry views persons through God’s eyes, as body-soul wholes created to live in a wholesome community. That means you must minister to every dimension of human need – spiritual, financial, psychological, physical etc. A lofty charge to take on. It also means wholeness at every level of society – individuals, families, communities, nations, and the global human family. Some people refer to this as “natural religion.”
I thought about this the past week because I was rereading (via the audiobook – and No that’s not cheating since much of Adams’ writing began as radio plays) Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams which is the first book in his Dirk Gently series. Adams is a clever and funny author best known for the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, but the books take on some big and serious themes too. At Dirk’s Holistic Detective Agency, they solve the whole crime. Adams has Dirk promote his business by saying that “We find the whole person. Phone today for the whole solution to your problem (Missing cats and messy divorces a specialty).”
In this first book, there are ghosts, time travel, eccentric computer geniuses, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the end of the world, and some missing cats. Dirk uses “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things” to solve crimes, so his investigations sometimes follow seemingly irrelevant paths.
Dirk is psychic, though he refuses to believe in such things. He says that he has a “depressingly accurate knack for making wild assumptions.”It is depressing because he doesn’t seem to be able to use it to win money gambling.
My favorite of the three Dirk novels is The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. That phrase appeared in his earlier Life, the Universe and Everything. It described the horrible boredom of being immortal. It is also a kind of punning allusion to the theological treatise Dark Night of the Soul, by Saint John of the Cross.
You may not see the connection but in my post yesterday about missing the Full Moon, I waxed a bit philosophically and holistically about how celestial events, happenings in nature, and many very human events around us, go unobserved by most people. I do believe in the interconnectedness of the universe. I have long believed in synchronicity. It has been suggested that Ying and Yang may be a way to explain synchronicity. I used as an illustration here a Yin and yang symbol. It represents a Chinese philosophical concept that describes opposite but interconnected forces. Yin is the receptive and yang is the active principle. It can be seen in all forms of change and difference. For example, the annual cycle (winter and summer), the landscape (north-facing shade and south-facing brightness), and even sociopolitical history (disorder and order).
We are all trying to figure it out.
If you are more of a watcher than a reader or listener, there is a 2016 BBC TV series
with Dirk Gently played by Samuel Barnett, and his reluctant assistant Todd played by Elijah Wood. I watched the two seasons on Hulu. There had been a 5-episode series in 2012 with another cast.