Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Title: The Art of Loving
Author: Erich Seligmann Fromm
Publisher: Harper and Brothers
Original Publication Date: 1956
Pages: 184

There's a lot of grain of truth in this theorizing and objectification of love that Erich Fromm successfully wrote. Let me quote with liberality such instances more so for the inherent beauty and magnificence of such statements.

One page xix

"It (book) wants to convince the reader that all his attempts at love are bound to fail; unless he tries most actively develop his total personality so as to achieve a productive orientation."

On page 22

"Love is an activity, not a passive effect; it is a 'standing in' not a 'falling for.' In the most general way the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving, not receiving."

On page 56

"To love somebody is not just a strong feeling — it is a decision, it is a judgement, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no promise to base the promise to love each other forever. A feeling may comes as it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgement and decision?"

On page 71

"Most people believe that love is constituted by the object not by the faculty. Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object - and that everything goes by itself afterward. This attitude can be compared to a man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he has just to wait for the right object and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it. If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world, I love life. If I can say to someone 'I love you,' I must be able to say, 'I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself."

From a scholar and an academician's perspective, Art of Loving is highly reminiscent and indicative of the great scholar Fromm is. His arguments are well thought out and psychologically anchored. The conclusions are convincingly rationalized. My propensity to disagree however trickles in regarding certain points in his arguments.

Fromm situates fatherly love as love that is conditional in contrast to motherly love as unconditional. This condition, Fromm writes, depends on the child's capacity to please, satisfy and fulfill every fatherly expectation, requirement and demand. Now before anything else, the strength of this forthcoming argument is not anchored on personal disposition (for I am neither a father nor a husband yet) nor is it on a personal father-son relationship but on the patent criticism on Freud's study —that much of adult psychological development is founded on the child's experience (because it perpetuates that development is not progress and change but accumulation of the same static component). Now for you Fathers out there, is Fatherly love truly conditional? Does it really depend upon any fulfillment of a condition? Isn't it a bit partial, bordering sexism for fatherly love to be labeled as conditional? This is pivotal since Fromm forwards the argument that conditional fatherly love is the significant half component for the development of a mature being capable of truly loving. Cannot fatherly love be demanding, hard-driving, expectant and directing while at the same time be unconditional? Because in contrast to what Fromm writes, that the failure to transcend the conditional fatherly love results to one extreme end of the stick, the incomplete and incapable-of-loving person, perhaps such incapability have resulted from such conditional fatherly love in a very fundamental manner. Fromm's proposition of this kind of a fatherly love however carries something more portentous because as much as reality has put it, the general rule is non-fulfillment of such 'condition' and the fulfillment being the exception which necessarily forwards the conclusion that most individuals are incapable of loving.

The social milieu (having been published at 1956) at the time of the writing of this book is gleamed from the very words and arguments Fromm has employed. Take for example Fromm's argument on homosexuality, capitalism, and on criticism on Freud.

What surprised me however is Fromm's repeated employment of biblical passages and resources. In hindsight this should have come with no surprise at all as no better book talks (categorically and objectively) about love than the Bible, and this is true whether one reads it as a religious keystone or as a plain literary work.

Basically one of the theses of this book is that an individual has to be a complete individual by himself/herself. And I have always believed this to be true and found that acclaimed romantic statement 'you complete me!' to be a grossly incorrect statement. Fromm hits that mark masterfully.

Considering it all, Art of Loving is one enlightening work, something I'd never fail to recommend.
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