The Trees of The Forest
“There is in all visible things…a hidden wholeness.”
~ Thomas Merton
We are often told that the whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts. But then we are never told what this new whole is now more equal to. It must be because it is not known; otherwise we would be told.
If the whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts, then knowing the parts is insufficient to knowing the whole. You can’t know the forest just by knowing the trees. This is because of the “hidden wholeness.” The whole forest is equal to more than the sum of its trees.
This “hidden wholeness” exists even though we can’t see it. Remember that what you see is not all there is. What you don’t see is what you don’t pay attention to and what you can’t see (the hidden wholeness). Everything is interconnected to everything else in an unbroken wholeness. This interconnectedness is what you can’t see.
This is why the trees and the forest is a good metaphor for looking at the future. The future doesn’t exist except in our minds. The hidden wholeness of the forest reminds us that we can’t see the wholeness of reality. What we see is not all there is; which reminds us of the hidden wholeness, like we can’t see the forest.
Knowing the trees is not knowing the forest. Knowing the parts is not knowing the whole. This would be a good mantra to carry with us. One way to do this is to ask: Am I seeing/knowing only the parts of the whole? Can I see the hidden wholeness?
The hidden wholeness is the part of the forest that we can’t see. We can’t see the forest because we are looking at the trees. We can’t see the whole because we are looking at the parts.
Be aware of the singular and the plural — the parts and the whole; the trees and the forest. You can’t know the forest just by knowing the trees. You can’t know the whole just by knowing the parts. The whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts.
What you see is not all there is.