Sunday, July 16, 2017

Toward Healing | The Sum of Parts Is Smaller Than The Whole

Aristotle stated over 2300 years ago that "the whole is something over and above its parts, and not just the sum of them all" (Metaphysics, 1045a). Aristotle's statement is one of the most basic observations on both the natural and man-made world and has become the foundation for a multitude of theories and practices based on synergy. As a design theoretician and practitioner I have been constantly experiencing the value of this fundamental observation.
A Menger sponge as visual example of whole and parts. Image from spacetecture © daniela bertol

Unfortunately "the whole being greater than the sum of its parts" is true also in negative destructive actions in personal life. I can be a perfect case study as in the past four years I have been experiencing how seemingly separated events and people have merged together to produce severe damage to my wellbeing. Some of these events are considered major life stress, each on its own: brutal divorce proceedings, betrayal from friends, lack of support from immediate family, the challenging pursue of a doctoral degree caught in the crossfire of academic politics.  Other events are something which anybody can face on a daily basis: e.g. dealing with dysfunctional public and private services, bureaucracy, delayed deliveries, rude strangers, greedy neighbors. Facing all or several of these adversities several at once can become an explosive cocktail for emotional and physical health bringing stress to dangerous levels.

A week ago I had this insight which has become a major life changer in dealing with adversities. If I am overcome the whole of negative people and events encountered in my daily life, why not dealing with each negativeness separately, deconstructing the whole into its parts.  Dealing with each negativity at the time can be accomplished especially when starting with smaller tasks. It is important to start with something we can successfully accomplish without other people—especially when the others are  narcissistic obstructionist spouses and family members. 

Logic is an important component of Greek, and overall, philosophy. Therefore, whenever the whole points to negative actions and effects, why not changing "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" into "the sum of parts is smaller than the whole"?