Abstraction… or the Stuff Real Life is Made of?

stocksnap_bgydi1lqy7Sometimes we come across something that is so profound, that makes such an impact on us, that we are stunned for a moment in time. This moment connects us to a deeper part of ourselves- our essence-which may cause discomfort for most in our waking moments. But when we are experiencing this feeling of being stunned by something that rocks and touches that deepest part of us, time falls away and we drop into a space where we get a glimpse of what is truly important.

And it feels. That’s what it does. It allows you this glimpse of something extremely important- and lets you feel it deep down and all over.

Even if this sensation doesn’t last long, it has touched you, and from that moment, moving forward, you are never quite the same. You now have knowledge, or a knowingness that you didn’t before, and it is now a part of who you are.

Recently a movie was released whose timing could have been better planned. It came out at the same time the new Star Wars movie made its debut. The theatrical draw of blood, guts, and action just wasn’t in this movie, but its impact is so much greater. The movie? “Collateral Beauty”. Profound experience.

The focus of “Collateral Beauty” deals with three topics that people in most societies across the globe have a challenging time discussing-which means they are also grappling with them emotionally in private, too. Yet, if we were to be more open to these three topics, they might just hold the keys to a “life manual” we have all been wishing for to guide us more deftly through our lives.

The movie trailer lets you know some basic information about the movie, so what I am about to reveal regarding some of it won’t be giving away the movie entirely.

In the first few minutes of a speech given by Wil Smith’s character, Howard, he talks about connection and how important this is to us as humans. He then relates it to advertising, but our focus will be on the first part of his presentation. We are created to long for connection with others. We are not meant to live in isolation. This is evident in society’s use of total isolation as the most severe form of punishment. We live healthier lives when we have deep connections to others and know we have a support system we can rely on.

His character, Howard, goes on to describe the Three Abstractions. It is critical to understand exactly what an abstraction is. The dictionary describes it as “the act of considering something as a general quality or characteristic, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances”. What are these Three Abstractions? Love. Time. Death. He states that:

We long for Love.

We wish we had more Time.


We fear Death.

His character then, relates to each of these as “apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances”- until things get real. His six year old daughter dies. At some point after her death, he writes a letter to Love. He writes a letter to Time. He writes a letter to Death.

Pure, raw, emotion. Written from a very dark place.

And he gets answered by each one. Profoundly.

Howard wrote each letter from the dark place he was in. If you were to write a letter to each of these abstractions today, what would it say?

Your letter to each would reveal much about where you are in life in relationship with each of them, in this moment. Over time- and experience- each letter would contain different messages, depending on what was occurring in your life. Three very important themes/abstractions in each of our lives. Love. Time. Death.

These three connect us all. They are woven into the tapestry of our lives, and though the experiences themselves may differ in detail and history, they are there- in the story of each life lived on this planet. These are not little bits to be discarded or brushed away like dust. They are the very substance of what makes our lifetime matter. They help create who we are in very important ways. They touch us like nothing else can.

We are created to live in connection. This is what matters, what makes life so extraordinary. Let us focus on how we are alike. We all need human connection. Love does that. Love is in everything that happens. Even in the midst of our deepest pain, love is there. Of the three abstractions, love gathers us together, heals, transcends. Let us focus on this around the world. We all need it. Let us BE it.

The name of this movie also has an incredible meaning and message for us. “Collateral Beauty”. Collateral means “aside from the main subject or course; secondary”. Aside from all that happens in each day- whether we are going through the dance with love, with needing more time, or the dance with death- there is such beauty all around us. In us. In each person who walks beside or past us. This beauty should touch our hearts. We are here for this moment, able to experience the now. What a gift that is! We so take it all for granted.

The three Abstractions. The three Total Connections to every living being. A manual for how to live life- in deep connection with all three, living in and through the emotions of them all, knowing that each is a gift, and a way of connecting us to each other. A knowing that beauty surrounds us at all times, confirmation that we are here, we are not alone, we are loved.