The Whole is Bigger Than the Sum of its Parts || Believe Me
Adventures of the Soul by Khadija Muhaisen Dajani
The opening of my first class in Whole, Plant-based Nutrition was about an elephant. I have always been fascinated by elephants. The appeal was confirmed when I dove into my yoga journey and learned about Ganesha, one of the most popular Hindu deities. He has a large elephant head and a human body. He is known as the remover of obstacles - and the creator of obstacles for those whose ambition has become destructive. He is also the deity of success and writers.
The class opened with an old story about six blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. Each is placed at a different body part: leg, tusk, trunk, tail, ear, belly. Each man’s assessment is different. And each is sure - rightfully - that his experience alone is the correct one.
Scientific research today is best described using this elephant. Instead of the six blind men, it recruits 60,000 researchers to scrutinize the elephant, each through a different lens. (This number is not random. Dr. T. Colin Campbell discusses this process and the number of scientists in his book Whole.)
“The problem arises only when... the individual points of view are mistakenly seen as describing the whole truth. When a laser-like focus is misunderstood as a global overview. When the six men or 60,000 researchers don’t talk to one another or acknowledge that the overall goal of the exploration is to perceive and appreciate the whole elephant. When they assume that any view that questions their own is simply wrong.” - T. Colin Campbell.
I am a wholist. I believe that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. In more subtle ways than one can imagine. The elephant is much more magnificent than its trunk obviously. The whole apple is much more nutritious than its juice. Yoga is much deeper than a pose. I am much more than what you see.
My body - the elephant - is built to function in a state of homeostasis. It is natural for my body to tend to always work toward maintaining a stable, functional balance, and unnatural to be in a state of imbalance. It takes a lot of effort and hard work to be misaligned. Its organs - the parts - work independently and wholistically to support balance and wellness. Unless I consciously disrupt it.
Nutrient ingestion is a great example. Science cannot predict how much of a nutrient is absorbed and utilized by the body at any given moment. It is dependent on the body’s need for that nutrient at that moment in time. The process is highly complex. 60,000 scientists worked hard to prove that the relationship between nutrients consumed and amount actually absorbed by the body is not linear. Not only that, but the nutrient content of the foods we eat also varies. And that is before it enters our body. The difference in beta-carotene content between two similar peaches could vary three to nineteen-fold. Once the peach is ingested, the absorption and utilization of beta-carotene in the body varies as well depending on the multitude of chemical reactions and processes that are underway at any given moment. I am not a scientist, but it does not surprise me if the outside temperature at the time of ingestion may also affect absorption and utilization amounts.
“When we eat the right foods, in amounts that satisfy but don’t stuff us silly, our bodies naturally metabolize the nutrients in those foods to give us exactly what we need at any given moment.” - T. Colin Campbell
The average apple contains a significant amount of vitamin C, K, B6, potassium, dietary fiber, and riboflavin. It has smaller amounts of vitamin A, E, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, and so many more nutrients. Researchers focused on the antioxidant effect of vitamin C in the apple. About half a cup of fresh apples contains 100 grams of antioxidant, vitamin C-like potency that is equivalent to 1500 milligrams of vitamin C (3 times more potent than a typical vitamin C supplement). This vitamin C- like activity in its wholeness is 263 times more potent than the same amount of the isolated vitamin C. Strength does come in numbers. It also comes in variety. And simple complexity. (This piece of data was not reached by the 60,000 scientists examining the parts of the elephant. It was found by Dr. Rui Hai Liu and his team at Cornell University.)
This evidence has been with me for a few months. It pops up almost daily in an array of manifestations. In fact, this morning I experienced the power that only comes from using my whole body to support me in a yoga pose. The potency was astoundingly large. 263 times more than usual. (There are 60,000 little scientists in my head trying to reduce this life into small, compartmentalized bodies of information that eventually run through a consolidation - wholeness/big picture - filter.)
I can wear the latest yoga leggings. I can practice on the best non-slip yoga mat. (I sweat. A lot.) I can get myself into a few decent poses - preferably with someone around ready to snap the perfect IG shot. I can throw in a few “spiritual” words. That puts me solidly at the tale - of the elephant.
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” - Isaac Asimov
Wisdom continues to unfold for me, like the petals of a beautiful flower. It can only come from experience. And it is the whole - the entire elephant. Wisdom is that ability to rise above, and start connecting the parts. It is holding all six blind men by the hand and walking them through the entire elephant.
It is not a coincidence that Ganesha is believed to be the remover of obstacles and the patron of wisdom, learning, and success. In his imperfect wholeness, Ganesha’s figure is shown holding a broken tusk in his lower right hand like a pen, symbolizing that perfection is merely an illusion. With his broken tusk, Ganesha is believed to have written the Mahabharata. He is the perfectly imperfect whole. So much greater, infinitely wiser than the sum of its parts. Designer yoga leggings and mat do not make a yogini. A life of service, compassion, discipline, commitment, honesty, purity, spirituality and faith may - one day in some lifetime. The whole is far richer - and humanly imperfect - than the sum of its perfect parts.