The Spirit of Abstraction

Without harking back to the ‘good old days’, because it’s entirely possible that the media brings us stories that would otherwise have been lost, but does it seem to you that we have all become much more insensitive to the suffering of others?

The Spirit of Abstraction?

Gabriel Marcel in his essay “The Spirit of Abstraction as a Factor Making for War’ coined the term ‘spirit of abstraction’. What it means is the practice of seeing people as functions rather than as human beings.

I see that at work when

Economic inequality. Gender inequality. Racial inequality. We see examples of these all around us.

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.

Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. – Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium

We need to replace the spirit of abstraction with a spirit of compassion today!

Where do we begin? How do we change the hearts and minds of people.

As with every movement for good, change begins with the individual.

Compassion begins

  • when I reach out to a family member and ask how she is doing.
  • when I pay fair wages to the people who work for me.
  • when I realize that the maid needs some days off.
  • when I smile at a stranger.
  • when I pay for a stranger’s meal.
  • when I speak out for someone who is suffering.
  • when I contribute to a poor child’s education.

Compassion begins with me today!


Today I join the 1000 Voices for compassion.

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An inspirational writer, a creativity and writing trainer/coach, I write about life, gratitude, healing, wellness, relationships at Everyday Gyaan. I offer training/coaching to anyone looking to explore their creativity and heal through writing via The Frangipani Creative, located in Secunderabad, India. You can also find me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, Bytes of Gyaan, on Substack.

7 Comments on “The Spirit of Abstraction

  1. It’s sad, isn’t it? What we’re turning the world into. But then again our little acts of compassion and our words can do a lot, of this I’m positive.

    For, life is so much better when we have hope, isn’t it?

  2. This was a really, really good post and reminder. Alpha Hubby and I do our part because it is important to us. We’ve been on the other side of “need” and seen what people do and don’t do. My son and his wife always take extra “names” off the Christmas trees of local people in need in order to give back. We donate and give where we can. We never have a garage sale, we put things on the corner with a sign that says “free” (quality things, not junk). We also make sure the places we give to that take care of those in need use 100% of our money to help others (i.e., not use it for administrative costs). God has been so good to us that we have to give back and help others. It truly is more blessed to give than receive.

  3. I love your suggestions for acts of compassion Corinne. It’s obvious now I’ve read it that buying fair trade clothes is an act of compassion, though I hadn’t quite thought of it that way. I just tried to do it whenever I could because it seemed “right” and because I hate to think I could contribute to someone’s suffering. Actually, this example is an interesting one – a friend of mine was told by someone who words for a NGO that even poor pay was better for people than none, so we shouldn’t boycott manufacturers of cheap clothes. I can understand that point, but I still wouldn’t want to buy from products I knew had been made by workers experiencing poor conditions. I guess like most things in life, it’s not black and white but shades of grey.

  4. Bravo Corinne! What a beautiful piece. I can’t believe I let today’s date slip past me. This is the first #1000Speak I’ve ever missed. Thank you for always keeping up the good fight.

  5. his is why we need to keep things like #1000Speak going. There is much too much of the negative stuff that we need something to counteract it.
    I hope, with the refugee problems, that my country will help. We are all immigrants, most of us anyway. Do wenot want the same kindness and help when we are in that situation? I don’t mean to pick on the US, but like you’re saying about days off and things, workers aren’t just serving. They have homes, families, and problems and the issues of maternity leave and things are upsetting. It feels like nobody cares anymore.

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