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May 16, 2011

The Divergent Challenge: Abengation

Kate Hart
Last week, Deb challenged us all to perform some act that reflected the spirit of the Abnegation faction, in honor of the release of DIVERGENT by the lovely Veronica Roth.

Abnegation embodies selflessness. Its members deny themselves some rights or conveniences for the good of other people. They eschew vanity, greed, and envy.

It just so happens that during the same week, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama came to my hometown. Who better to embody Abnegation than a Nobel Peace Prize-winner whose mission is to promote compassion and forgiveness, and to encourage the cooperation of all world religions? According to the Dalai Lama:
Despite philosophical differences, all major world religions have the same potential to create good human beings.  It is therefore important for all religious traditions to respect one another and recognize the value of each other’s respective traditions.  As far as one truth, one religion is concerned, this is relevant on an individual level.  However, for the community at large, several truths, several religions are necessary.
I found this interesting, because one of my criticisms of Divergent has been its approach to religion. It didn't make sense to me that society would divide itself into personality factions while religion still existed. But the more I thought about his message, the more I considered that the ultimate act of abnegation might be recognizing the necessity of several truths instead of insisting on your one.

Which makes me suspect Vee is smarter than me.

My attempts to write this post keep turning into a treatise on the Dalai Lama's philosophies and how they apply to dystopian scenarios, but the challenge was to do something altruistic as an individual. Sparing you all this essay probably doesn't count. The truth is, I didn't do anything I feel compelled to blog about. And reading through the other posts, it's obvious that no one else felt comfortable claiming credit for their own experiments and gestures-- I saw the word "fail" on almost every post.

But I don't think we failed. I think we experienced something that Tris learns in Divergent, and the Dalai Lama also tries to teach:
"...merely thinking that compassion and reason and patience are good will not be enough to develop them. We must wait for difficulties to arise and then attempt to practice them."
Nothing we set out to do as a purposely "abnegation" act was going to feel genuine. But when a true opportunity arrives, I believe we'll seize it.


  1. This is so interesting, Kate...the quotes from the Dalai Lama are spot on (duh, right?) I think (and hope) that your last line sums up our Abnegation challenge. :)

    Thanks for participating!

  2. Wow you rocked this. You are so wise!

  3. AND Kate pwns us all at Abnegation. Well played, Hart. Well played.

    You're so right though, there was no "failing" at last week's faction, just perhaps more thoughtful recognition of how selflessness does (or doesn't) factor into our decisions regularly.

  4. I like this take on selflessness! And I agree. PERFECT timing :)

  5. "Nothing we set out to do as a purposely "abnegation" act was going to feel genuine."

    I agree. I mean, we were trying to do something selfless so that we could blog about being selfless. I guess it was a little circular.

  6. Nothing we set out to do as a purposely "abnegation" act was going to feel genuine.

    I agree with that. And isn't true abnegation acting selfless without thought?


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