Essence vs Accidents

In college, as part of a course in comparative religion, I remember a discussion of the Catholic belief that during the Mass, the wafer is transformed into the body of Christ. The professor explained that the belief is really that the “accidents” of the wafer remained the same (the color, texture, taste etc. — which always made me gag, btw) but its “essence,” its essential nature, didn’t.
As an aside, that’s the difference between feminism and girlism. Feminism says focus on the essence (admirable human qualities) of a person rather than the accidents (looks, weight, religion, race etc.).
It’s the essence, not the accidents, of all of us that should be why we are respected, admired, employed, served, loved. Maybe we need to start a new human movement called “essentialists.”
This thinking was triggered by a post on Blog Sisters by Brooke Biggs, who works for Anita Roddick who founded The Body Shop and who recently went “undercover” as a “fat person.” Her story and comments are revealing, both for her humanity and how she serves the needs of her customers.
(double posted on Humans First.)

8 thoughts on “Essence vs Accidents

  1. The problem is that what a lot of us think of as “accidental” some people work very hard for, and consider part of their essence. Looks especially.
    So an “ignore looks” message gets misinterpreted as “anti-pretty,” “anti-feminine,” or “anti-sex.” I don’t think it’s hard to see that operating in the blogsphere over the past few days, do you? 😉

  2. I know that lots of parents don’t want schools imposing “values” on kids, but maybe there needs to be a curriculum for exploring those things that make us all “essentially” human, those things we all have in common and those qualities that we can put to use to make the world a good place to live for everyone. And, as part of that curriculum, exploring the genetic and historical “accidental” happenings that give us the differences that get in our way of making the world a good place to live for everyone. I’m not sure there’s too much hope for my generation; there might be some for yours, Dorothea; and if there’s going to be any for my grandson’s we all need to work really hard at figuring out how to change the way kids are taught to perceive people who accidentally are different from them.

  3. I echo Tom. This is the first comprehensible piece of information I’ve had on feminism or whatever it is that passes for it over there. Maybe I’m dumb but so what?
    Essentialism I understand and feel to my bones. I’ve a problem with the use of the word ‘accidents’, though. I don’t think our perceivable differences are accidents. They are what makes the essence more desirable, more difficult to reach. They make us the Holy Grail of Being.

  4. ‘So an “ignore looks” message gets misinterpreted as “anti-pretty,” “anti-feminine,” or “anti-sex.”‘
    Dorothea, this is where I think the ‘essentialism’ message is especially important. I don’t agree with your statement. To my mind, an ‘ignore looks’ message is merely meaningless and is interpreted as such. Such a view deprives us of the opportunity of finding what is common.
    It’s like the old adage “Thou shalt not judge”. Screw that, I say. People spend their lives in judgement of others. “Thou shalt not condemn” makes a hell of a lot more sense to me and is something towards which Joe and Joanne Soap can realistically strive.

  5. I like it. I’m with Tom. Sign me up, too. If there should ever be a committee dedicated to wiping out the scourge of “beauty” contests, I would like to chair it, please.

  6. I think we agree in essence [ha!], but I disagree with the semantics of essential vs. accidental – it seems to disregard that it can be beneficial to perceive people as a huge mass of variety, as inherently different rather than essentially similar in some ways, but not others. Saying “we’re all different, and that’s okay” seems to make more sense with our need to separate ourselves from the things outside ourselves.
    Of course, whether you focus on difference or similarity, what is essentially the same about people is that we’re all equally deserving of whatever we choose to pursue. And I feel strongly that we can’t really be accepting of each other if we don’t also accept people who want to pursue a certain look, for instance.

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