Seeing the whole is a revolutionary act.
Understanding the context is a source of power. The power of information is in its ability to provide insight for effective action. The more efficient and effective an action the more power it has. The more leveraged an action, the more power it has. You gain leverage, insight as to where, when and how to act, from context. You might be able to learn that something is wrong, that action is needed, from just information— the alarm is going off— but you will not know what, when, where and how to do something —or more precisely to do something effectively— unless you know and understand the context of that alarm. What does it mean? Has it happened before? What is the history, what lead up to the alarm? What are our options? What can be done? What will be the consequences of the possible actions we could take? What happens if we do nothing?
The bigger the picture you have of a specific incident, action, threat, opportunity or idea, the more informed, and hence more powerful, will be your response. The larger the picture, the more inclusive the view, the more options there will be included in your understanding.
Conversely, the narrower the view, the fewer the options. If an alarm goes off and the only information is “alarm going off,” —there is no other information— then your response will be a reaction, a mirror, to that alarm. You will panic. “Panic” being a response to a situation when there is the perception of zero options. (Panic: a logical response to zero options in the threatening situation.) Expand the point of view, enlarge the perspective, see the bigger picture, and understand the context— and the options increase, threat decreases, and possible effective response to the alarm goes up.
With an understanding of the bigger picture, an alarm going off is a signal, another bit of information in a larger context that is part of a whole that allows for the connection of the dots, the “making sense” of what is happening— and the calmly rational choosing which response to give to the alarm. More importantly, seeing the big picture allows one to anticipate what is happening so a response to a possible alarming situation can be dealt with before a situation get critical and an alarm goes off.
Overwhelming complexity leads to apathy. Understanding complexity leads to effective actions. Overwhelming complexity with time constraints leads to zero options and panic. Understanding complexity in the context of the whole leads to effective action and the anticipation of possible alarming situation before they happen.
“Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.” – Ben Hecht