Compassionate Strangers: What happened to Wisdom? is a series of 24 essays on how we might become better human beings. 

Philosophical ideas and examples from culture are paired together in each essay. Art, film, literature and music are all explored to help understand the ideas and point out the direction of travel towards becoming wiser and more compassionate.

Self-awareness ideas from Hans-Georg Gadamer on prejudice, conversation, experience, play and commitment are matched with Sherlock Holmes, Wilfred Bion, René Magritte, a 1938 Jazz event, and AC/DC.

Emmanuel Levinas, supported by Silvia Benso, stares into the face of the other and discovers responsibility, tenderness and the limits of knowledge. In the process death, murder, silence, torment and zombies are tackled alongside Kafka, American abstract art, anthropology, Hemingway and Tolstoy.

Finally,  Jean-Paul Sartre examines barriers and opportunities for self-development by asking hard questions on identity, freedom, responsibility and growth, such as “Who am I?” From American History X to The Third Man, The Name of the Rose to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Georgia O’Keeffe to John Lee Hooker, the self is viewed though art, film, literature and music.


Philosophy: Hans-Georg Gadamer, Emmanuel Levinas, Silvia Benso, Stanley Cavell, Jean-Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Art: Rene Magritte, Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Film: Carol Reed and Tony Kaye.

Literature: Arthur Miller, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jean-Paul Sartre, Franz Kafka, Joanne Harris, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, Umberto Eco and Robert Tressell.

Music: Benny Goodman, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, AC/DC and John Lee Hooker.

Wisdom: Philip Zimbardo, Irvin Yalom, Wilfred Bion, Jeanette Winterson and Lucien Lévy-Bruhl.


Illustrated with over 500 pictures.

After You, Jackson 3000 wide.fw
Photo by Hans Namuth