Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eric Fromm: The art of loving (summary)

Sometimes people write very elaborate books when they could say the same thing simply. This is an attempt to save time for anyone who wants to read this book. I hope to condense the ideas of such books, like I did before with the 'decision making' book.

1. Love is care , responsibility, respect,and knowledge. You cannot love something you do not care about, and you cannot love someone without knowing who they are.

2. Children growing up experience motherly love (unconditional) and fatherly love (conditional). Gradually, they synthesize these two contradictory aspects in themselves, this is the beginning of maturity. Lack of either leads to becoming either too harsh a person, or too helpless or dependent.

3. Most people experience separateness as physical separateness, and so physical union means overcoming separateness. With passing time, this sense of closeness gets reduced, and one may tend to seek out a new stranger, with the illusion that this love will be different.

Two views: On one hand erotic love could be viewed as an act of will- since everyone is essentially similar, one could choose to love anybody. Yet contemporary western society views love as an outcome of a spontaneous emotional reaction, unique to two people. Both views have failings ( if the emotional excitement disappears , should the marriage end ? If there is little in common, should the marriage never be dissolved ?)

4. Love in an industrialized society

Modern capitalism needs :
a) men who cooperate , who feel free but can be guided without force.
b) who consume more and more
c) whose tastes are standardized , predictable, and easily influenced.

The outcome is that man has been alienated from himself and nature,transformed into a commodity. He experiences life forces as an investment that must bring maximum profit under the existing conditions. He counters loneliness with a busy work schedule, or though passive consumption of entertainment on TV and media, or by shopping for new things. Everything, spiritual (Deepak Chopra !) or material (Pepsi) , has become an object of exchange. Even the concept of God and religion in today's culture of 'getting ahead', is that of a psychological tool to improve one's personality and succeed.

A happy marriage now is viewed like a smoothly functioning team. The main emphasis is on seeking a refuge from a sense of aloneness.

5. The practice of Love
Fromm says that concentration and patience are essential to love- and this must be in all spheres of our lives. This discipline that we exercise in all spheres, must be a willful expression, not an authoritative plan. The activity at the moment must be the only one that matters. Apart from this, Sensitivity to our thoughts, having a realistic, objective view of the world based in humility, rather than a self centered one, is also important. The process of loving involves replacing the self centered view of the world (based on our own desires and fears),with an objective one.

To love may require to emerge from one's clan and grow and connect with the world, and this needs faith, which in turn needs courage and risk taking. Finally, developing these traits in the personal realm is not enough, these must be practiced in the social realm with everybody.

Fromm believes that the principals of capitalistic society, where speed is everything and uniqueness is discouraged, clashes with the principles of love. However he is optimistic that modern life offers enough non conformity to allow love to exist.

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