Co-Intelligence Logo The Co-Intelligence Institute
What's New
Our Work
Contact RESOURCES Don't Miss (Features)
Links JOIN US Subscribe
Take Action
Donate Legal Notices


Wisdom and Wholeness

The attempt to describe wisdom is an impossible task. However, the attempt is important if we want to create a wise democracy. We need to find ways to understand wisdom that we can bring into the realms of politics and government, so we can say that this process or decision is wiser than that one and, more importantly, why it is wiser.

Around such understandings a movement can be built. Without them, we will have nothing but our individual opinions which, despite their considerable value, give us nothing to rally around.

Our tentative conclusion is that wisdom, in its essence, is about wholeness. It is about the wholeness of life. Wise people and decisions take one or more dimensions of that wholeness seriously. They appreciate it and build on it with what they say and the impact they have on the world.

So let's explore "wholeness" a bit.

The words "holy," "wholesome," "health" and "healing" are all rooted in the idea of "wholeness." Wholeness involves the entirety of things, which suggests inclusion and seeing the big picture. It involves diversity, but diversity that dances with unity instead of undermining it. It involves cooperation, interaction, dialogue, compassion, and all the other things that "bring us together" without losing our individual "integrity" (another word grounded in wholeness), thus enhancing relationship and interconnectedness. Our essential unity and kinship are powerful factors in wholeness.

So are holistic ways of knowing -- from systems theory and ecology to intuition, from quantum mechanics and field theory to heartful stories and human resonance. And, contrary to the inclinations of many "new paradigm" people, we can't exclude logic and facts and all our linear ways of knowing, because wisdom challenges us to engage the WHOLE SPECTRUM of our cognitive capacities!

Above all, wisdom serves life. It serves the wholeness (healing, integrity, sacredness) of individual lives, and it serves the larger whole, the whole of the community or the world, in which these individual lives are embedded. It honors and learns from the past, deepens into the present, and acts on behalf of The Seventh Generation after us - - engaging the whole of time, the big picture.

In the end, it knows that it can only approximate wholeness in all that it knows, says and does. So it tends to be humble. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and tells us (with a twinkle) that "there is always more to it than that!"

So that is a taste of the many dimensions of wholeness, of what it might mean to appreciate and act on the wholeness of life -- a wholeness which is, paradoxically, completely present and tantalyzingly improvable. In the center of that paradox wisdom lives and serves.

Our challenge is to find ways to help wisdom live and serve among and through us in every corner of democratic life, from the smallest conversations to the most powerful institutions.

Now let's try to articulate the relationship between wisdom and wholeness

Wisdom is applied appreciation of the wholeness of life. (This includes all varieties of appreciation and all varieties of wholeness.)

A person or culture is wise to the extent that they comprehend, value and support life's wholeness -- in any or all of its manifestations. They also tend to embody or exemplify that wholeness in various ways, and their engagement with life arises from it, or is experienced by them and others as an expression of it. Another way to put it: A truly wise person or culture is a vehicle or channel for life's wholeness on behalf of life.

They bring their growing insight about life's wholeness into each engagement with life (in its wholeness), in support of its emergence and evolution into fuller or newer manifestations of wholeness.

The wholeness of life (or some aspect of life's wholeness -- not its fragmentedness) is what is real to those that are wise as they engage with life.

Since life, in its wholeness, expands ever deeper into life and, ultimately, into mystery, they are expansive, inclusive, curious, learning, seeing the bigger picture -- and yet also humble, accepting and willing to let go, for they know that ultimately they do not know (there is always more to it), and they deeply honor the awesome mystery that lies in, under and beyond it all.

Since life, in its wholeness, is intricately interconnected, interdependent and co-creative, they take relationship and complexity seriously, not only as a challenge but as a source of life. They are motivated by love, mutuality, the common good and enlightened self-interest. They are responsible but not blaming (since we're all creating what's going on), engaged but not controlling (control is an illusion -- sometimes useful, but an illusion nevertheless), and interested in the many roles that are or could be involved in any phenomenon, and the choices among them. And since life's wholeness never involves "one thing alone," they find meaning in contexts, in fields of influence, in paradox and in the dynamic tension between what seem to be opposites.

Since life, in its wholeness, has continuity, consequence, unfolding meaning and story, wise people and cultures are embedded in deep time, the long view, the Seventh Generation. They are interested in history, vision, purpose, destiny, possibilities and the Great Guiding Stories that give life depth, meaning and direction.

Since life, in its wholeness, manifests itself in the form of individual whole beings, wise people and cultures respect and learn from people and other living things, honor diversity, nurture and use the wholeness of human capacities. To a wise person or culture, interactive differences and the living spirit of things are resources for bringing forth even more remarkable forms of wholeness.

Since life, in its wholeness, is holy, healthy and wholesome, they ground themselves in Spirit, in healing and in seeking alignment with the moral flow (or tendencies or "grain") of the Whole. Since life, in this wholeness, is self-organizing, they seek ways that nurture self-organization. Such ways require little effort but much observant insight into the motivations and interactions of life.

Since life, in its wholeness, is One, they are one with It. Since it is many, they embrace many. Since it is Present and emergent, they are present and emergent, with awareness. Since it is conscious, loving, and evolving, so are they. They are life, alive, exploring and evoking the wholeness of life.

(This definition can be understood and expanded to the extent a person has a deep understanding of wholeness.)

If you have comments about this site, email
Contents copyright © 2003, all rights reserved, with generous permissions policy (see Legal Notices)