To see the whole, we need to forget about the parts

20120916-194344.jpgAll we hear, see, smell, taste or feel is analyzed by our mind. It makes an incredible job in creating an amazingly detailed description of everything we experience. We call this description reality. What we keep forgetting is that we only experience a fraction of the whole. Our mind tends to focus on what we already know, because the unknown gives us a fuzzy feeling. To put together the broken jewel of wisdom we have to learn how to stitch back together all the individually perceived realities.

This is inability to see the whole was the reason why one day Lord Hanuman found the creator of the universe crying in his castle (story from the book The Treasure in Your Heart):
20120916-124453.jpg“My Lord, why are you crying? What is wrong?” Hanuman asked.
20120916-124602.jpg“Oh, my dear Hanuman,” Brahman said. “I held the jewel of wisdom in my hands. It was so beautiful – how it glimmered in the sunlight.”
20120916-124649.jpg“But alas, I dropped it, and the jewel shattered into millions of tiny pieces.”
20120916-124731.jpg“I see,” said Hanuman. “You dropped the jewel and it broke. Is that why you are crying?”

“No,” Brahma replied. “I cry because everyone who found a piece of the jewel of wisdom believes that he has the only piece.”20120916-124806.jpg

A hierarchical organization is split into separate departments, each representing a piece of the jewel of wisdom.

The sales guys focus on customers and closing deals. Finance people keep track of the company by recording earnings and expenses. Business people study the market and try to outsmart competitors. Engineers like to build things, are interested in using the latest technology and value the elegance of their blueprints. Designers give the products and services form, focusing on the user experience. If a new piece of the jewel of wisdom is needed, a new department is created.

And each department thinks they are holding the whole jewel of wisdom in their hands.

This belief will spur endless discussions. Instead of working together each department will spend of lot of energy convincing others to act in a way that can be explained through their own worldview.

But instead of promoting our own piece of the jewel, more time should be spent on trying to understand what the others have to offer, how they see the world. The best approach in understanding a different piece of the jewel is to forget everything you think to know. Look at a problem or situation like a child seeing it for the first time. Then listen what the others have to say, learn. Try to see how their piece of the jewel might fit together with your piece. Look out for missing pieces, talk to people you normally don’t communicate with.

We often think that the more knowledge we accumulate, the more complete our perception of reality will be. Our ability to describe what we perceive will certainly improve, but our tendency to see only a part instead of the whole will increase as well. The more we know about something, the more our mind will focus on what we already know. True wisdom can never be gained by accumulating knowledge alone!

To see the whole, we need to forget about the parts. As the Swiss artist and comedian Ursus Wehrli brilliantly demonstrates: You can’t understand Keith Haring’s painting if you focus on the pieces instead of the whole.

You have to forget about the parts, to experience the whole.

To get a glimpse at the jewel of wisdom, we have to learn to listen with our hearts.



  1. Alex Jones

    You highlight a major problem of mind. Often the answer is a middle way.

    We have two sides of the brain: the right side is holistic; the left is the one that likes the parts. Both side of the brain views the world in different ways, the theory is hat we need both views to see and handle the world clearly, using just one gives us a certain blindness and unbalances our response to the world.

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