Abstract is Evil

I’ve been wondering about abstraction.

In general, I love abstract ideas and art. But I also prefer non-fiction to fiction. I prefer travel to movies and video games.

Its interesting to look at the ‘definition’ of abstraction on Wikipedia. And in a dictionary.

I find the simplicity of abstraction powerful and impactful. And therein lies abstraction’s potential for evil, I suppose. By abstracting war, news and video games make it feel like any other sporting event, only with the score being kept with the number of dead. By abstracting complex policies and issues into sound bites, the mainstream media does everyone a disservice by (over)simplifying the debate.

I enjoy the experience of abstraction. Both as creator and observer. When I started photographing seriously, I was very much into abstraction (here’s a sample). Recently though its been a lot more anchored in reality. Why the shift? A lot of this has to do with the surfeit of abstraction in every day life … in the news especially.

I suppose one can think of the last decade as the ‘abstract decade’.

Some of it has to do with the move to India and all of the recent travel

I hope that the next one is a lot more reality-based and that we take the time to think about the complex issues that are with us and around us.

Here’s wishing everyone a really real and wonderful new decade!

P.S. I am halfway through Gurcharan Das’ book ‘The Difficulty of Being Good‘ and it has an interesting take on abstraction and realism.

3 Responses to “Abstract is Evil”

  1. Dr.Sivasubramanian Says:

    Nice post. For me, it has been a circular journey.

    In medical school, I had little time for abstraction, that I then thought was for the ‘less serious’ folks who didn’t have to worry about more concrete, pressing matters.

    Over years, dealing with families caring for seriously ill children, coping with the loss of some of them on my watch, and having to assign (at least to my own self) a meaning or reason for the illogical way things often happen in life, abstraction provided a haven or refuge, for explaining things not easy to do otherwise.

    Reading your post brings clearly into focus the flip side of viewing harsh reality through a lens of abstraction, and thereby giving it an illusory aura that lets us get away from facing up to their (very real) consequences.

  2. Sanjay Parthasarathy Says:

    My biggest issue is with the mainstream media and politicians’ use of abstraction to over-simplify. Over-simplification results in misleading or misunderstanding in many cases. Abstraction at the individual level, such as your approach to dealing with tough situations, is an important mechanism for coping or, in other cases, for a more enhanced experience. Inbetween, you have science and technology (algebra to virtual reality), that provide methods of abstraction that can be used for good or ill, by an individual or a group. So in the end, I feel that in the past decade, a very powerful ‘tool’ has been greatly misused by our leaders and press and they have commandeered technology and science to maximize the impact. Not that I am a cynic or anything 🙂

  3. Deepak Says:

    You need to read “Life Divine” for enlightenment in ‘Abstraction’. 🙂
    As the consciousness shifts, the abstratcion becomes concrete.


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