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.