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Holistic is one of those words that has come to be used as shorthand for a way of looking at the world and engaging with it that acknowledges that all that is is whole and connected; that the old mechanistic view of the world as being like a clock made up of separate parts is flawed; that individuals are a part of, and not apart from, each other and the rest of Nature.

Holistic, whole and holy

Holistic is also a word that has come to be used thoughtlessly – as if the mere use of the word was enough. Indeed, the American poet and farmer Wendell Berry once said: “Holistic is a word used by people who are too proud to say whole and too embarrassed to say holy”

If one wishes to refer to the notion of wholeness, one can use “whole” or possibly “entire”. If one wants to refer to notions of connectedness one can use words such as “interconnected” or “related”, the last of which has the advantage of suggesting “relationships” or preferably “relatingness” – since such relationships are typically dynamic, impermanent and ever in flux.

For those that see the world as divine, there is the word “holy”, which can be used to describe relationships with each other and with Nature that are governed by timeless principles of goodness, beauty and truth; by generosity, reciprocity, patience; simplicity; love and a caring for one another that is selfless. In this sense the word refers not to that which is set apart but to that of which all are a part of a common and everyday holiness.


Author: David Cadman