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|January 30, 2004||
Vol. 1, No. 192
Sister Rita Larivee, SSA, NCR associate publisher
Though the three areas of study are separate and will typically be found in different departments at most universities, each tells a similar truth:
The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
(There's much more than we can see.)
(There's an interconnectedness we are only beginning to understand.)
Choose just about anything, a car, a painting, a musical piece, or even a human being, and divide it into parts. Though each part may continue to make or have its unique contribution or characteristic, the distinctiveness of the totality is gone.
But do we really believe this? I wonder if deep down we tend to be skeptics about the idea and see it more as a thought to be admired than a reality that affects our everyday lives.
We have been nurtured by an understanding of the world that came about following the period of the Enlightenment. We began to see everything in very rational terms -- if we cannot see it, it must not exist; if we cannot prove it, it must not be true. The limited laws of science we knew back then ruled the day, and our limited understanding of the scientific method was applied to everything, material and spiritual.
I do not mean to minimize the importance of that particular age; it was a superb moment that set in motion an awakening that has yet to cease. But it also had a way of suppressing our sense of "awe" as we journeyed through life. We became well-acquainted with the tools of measurement, but in doing so we also distanced ourselves from those areas of life that could not be measured.
In a way, we came to believe that everything is nothing more than the sum of its constituent parts. If something goes wrong, it must be a problem with one of the parts. All we need to do is identify the problem part and we can fix it.
Medicine is a good example of this type of thinking. How often have we heard complaints about doctors caring more for the disease than for the patient? Specialization, though necessary, has also had the unfortunate side effect of dividing human beings into a series of separate compartments. It is well-acknowledged today that our emotional and spiritual well-being is very much connected to our physical well-being.
Those studying the universe understand this when they say that energy displacement in one part causes a disturbance in another part. A star on one side of the galaxy is not as separate as once thought from a star on the other side of the galaxy.
This thought also appears within quantum theology -- the whole being more than the sum of its parts. For many years, it was said that we were physical beings with a soul. Then we heard it said that we were actually spiritual beings having a physical experience. Quantum theology prefers to say that we are truly spiritual and physical, an integral reality of the two. Can we truly heal spiritual and physical ailments separately from each other?
But what does this mean for our world and for our church that the whole is more than the sum of its parts?
Let me give two suggestions.
In summary, I believe we must continue our exploration into new areas that may provide solutions for the future. Whether they are theological, spiritual, psychological or scientific, there is still much for us to discover. It's a big world out there and it's getting bigger all the time. But we're also more interconnected than we've ever been before. Our challenges may be great, but the well-being of the global community is certainly worth the effort.
Rita Larivee is NCR associate publisher. She can be reached at email@example.com
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