adj. Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts.
adj. Concerned with wholes rather than analysis or separation into parts: holistic medicine; holistic ecology.
For a little while “holistic” was a $20 word, a fancy word and concept that people liked to use so they sound well-educated. Today it is both a word and a concept that average people are fairly familiar with. We find holistic modalities in every area of life today as we begin to better understand that nothing is independent from everything else. From what modern science is learning, and what observers have noted for millennia, is that all of creation operates as a whole unit of systems composed of multiple smaller whole units and that there are reliable patterns to the way things go when they hum along to produce desirable outcomes.
I appreciated these quotes from the book Holistic Management: A Common Sense Revolution To Restore Our Environment: “… the world is composed of patterns – of matter, energy, and life – that function as wholes whose qualities cannot be predicted by studying any aspect in isolation. We would know very little about water, for instance, by making an exhaustive study of hydrogen or oxygen, even though every molecule of water is composed of both. … We now realize that no whole, be it a family, a business, a community, or a nation, can be managed without looking inward to the lesser wholes that combine to form it, and outward to the greater wholes of which it is a member.”
In our modern times we have grown accustomed to separating things and assuming that they are not at all connected. For example, our physical bodies and our emotions are connected and science has shown this to be true (even if it is not fully accepted yet), there are Molecules of Emotion revealing that even our thoughts and emotions have biological components. Your body is a whole that functions with many interconnected systems which are composed of lesser wholes – right down to the atomic level. Most people today seem to intuitively understand this and accept it to some degree.
So a holistic view is a perspective that sees individual things as part of a greater whole, or even part of several different wholes. Everything is interconnected like a spider’s web when one part is tugged on and the whole web jiggles in varying degrees in different places – but the whole thing responds. When one member of the family makes a decision it has an effect on the other members of the family, when one family does a thing it has an impact on the other families in their sphere, and when a community moves a certain way it impacts the larger community. Just like when a medication is given for a particular illness it affects other systems in the body (think of those long lists of side effects) and even systems outside of the body (like the residue of prescription drugs found in area waterways and water life).
When we begin to view our lives and the impact of our lives from a holistic perspective we can begin to see how not only is everything connected but that we impact a vastly huge array of wholes with everything we do. The trick is to begin to consider the wholes we are impacting as part of our decision-making process.
We have worked to view our farming practices holistically for some time now and as we continue to learn we continue to be amazed by the vastness of what we are learning. From soil microbiology and diversity of flocks/herds and crops, to the products we use in our home and the feed we give our animals, to the management we implement on our farm and in our home, to the business decisions we make and where we choose to utilize our resources.
Everything is connected and influences everything else: our faith, our practice, our stewardship, our community, our health, our future. We want to encourage you, dear reader, to take a few moments to ponder the greater wholes of your life and how you can manage them to the benefit of both the still greater wholes that you are part of and the lesser wholes that make up your personal whole.