Gracie Notes! The Whole is Greater (Other?) than the Sum of the Parts?

Congregational Folk Art

Cooperative Art for Spirit and Community


I was doing some Wikipedia to confirm the title of this Gracie Notes! when I discovered a controversy…

“The Whole is Other than the Sum of the Parts”

“When the perceptual system forms a percept or gestalt, the whole thing has a reality of its own, independent of the parts. The Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka made a famous statement about this: “The whole is other than the sum of its parts.” This statement is often translated to English as, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” Koffka did not like that translation. He firmly corrected students who substituted “greater” for “other” (Heider, 1977). “This is not a principle of addition,” he said. The statement as originally worded was supposed to mean that the whole had an independent existence in the perceptual system.”

Interesting debate… Is the Whole greater, or other? Click HERE for more persuasion from Koffka on Wikipedia.

As for me, I think the two choices are just varied perspectives on the same thing. My friend, walter john, likes to point out that while the Central Pacific Conference is made up of 47 churches, the CPC is not just the total ministry of those churches. The Conference has a unique ministry and existence that is connected to the churches, but “more than”, “greater”, or “other.” Your choice.

What I really wanted to talk about is cooperative art. If you were in attendance at the Annual Meeting last year, you got a little taste of what I’m talking about during the Friday group building. We all got to cut out a cloth fish (representing ourselves) which became a school of little fish, swimming in the shape of a giant fish. Our art illustrated the picture book, Swimmy, by Leo Lioni. One of the lessons of the story is that there is strength in community. Our cloth fish were a short-cut, chosen because of time restraints. We could have used a variety of materials and methods to create our fish – string art, paper-mache, collage, watercolor, telephone wire, plastic milk jugs with woven borders, you get the idea. Then, when we brought our variety of fish together into the shape of a large fish, we’d have a perfect UCC metaphor – “Unity and Diversity” – the Body of Christ.”

There are all sorts of Body of Christ images that you could explore artistically – weavings, collage, assemblages (crosses?), jazz band, community garden, circus, parade, mosaic, mural, and more… There’s a great example of community art in the airport in Honolulu. I’ll let the official words (and my pictures) tell you the story. I hope you find some playful ways to do art together. Let me know what you try.
Trunks up!
~ gracie

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Gracie's-FB-profile-photoGracie is the “unity and diversity” traveling evangelist for the Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ.


Posted in 2015 CPC Blog, Community, Congregational Folk Art, Cooperative Art
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