Is love an art instead of a mere sensation? Is love something that you can “fall into”, and does not require knowledge and effort? Erich Fromm has started his book,“The art loving” with these questions. In the following chapters, he tries to establish the former premise, to present love as an art with its theories and practices. The book is a great dedication for those who want to understand more about the nature of love, the nature of human, how a man can escape of his fear of separation, and how a man can resonate his mind and body with another person by accepting himself.
It seems to Erich Fromm that most people are more concerned about how to “being love, rather than that of loving, one’s capacity to loved” (1). People read Dale Carnegie, read self-help books, see romance movies to learn romantic acts and manners in order to make themselves more attractive, more “lovable”. Instead of practicing the act of loving, what he sees in the contemporary culture is people trying to have more popularity and sex appeal. He also see that people do not talk about love as an faculty, but as objects; “people think that to love is simple, but that to find the right object to love – or to loved by – is difficult”(2). He compares the two persons falling in love as a deal for exchanging objects which contain a lot of hidden values. Those secret attributes are the main causes for their conflicts later in life. If you find in your shiny, marvelous shoes that you just bought yesterday to have its pedestal broken, all you have to do is returning the shoes. With a person, the suffering is much more severe. Returning a person is a much more painstaking task, simply because you’re dealing with your peers. Breaking up alone is hard, not to mention divorce. The final point Erich Fromm made is that love is an art, and it requires both knowledge and effort. There is the clear difference between “falling in love” and permanently “being in love”, with the former usually die off easily. The crazier you are falling in ” love at the first sight”, the more likely you have been lonely before that love and possibly after will be after the foreseeable break-up. Without enough knowledge and practices in the art of loving, even a couple who know each other for a long time can sometimes experience isolation without the awareness of the other half. As hard as we try, we cannot physically be beside our partners all the time, nor understand what is running within their heads. However, love should bring joy and unification, not suffering and sophistication. To reach that state, you must master love. To master an art, one must understand its theories and practices, which Erich Fromm later explains carefully.
I hope this introduction is enough to make you feel interested in reading the book. I do not have the intention of writing about the whole one, since I would need more time to find a concrete theme to talk about. Thus, what I’m going to write below are lessons I’ve found reading “The Art of loving”. You may not want to read it as it contains many spoilers:
Hopefully at this time you have read the book. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Because of his unique ability of awareness and reasoning, man always seeks to overcome his separateness, to leave the prison of lonesomeness. He can reach it through orgiastic states ( ritual sex in the tribe, drugs, alcohol..) , conformity, creative activity and in love.
- Love is an activity, not passion. Love is active, not passive.
- Love is giving, not receiving. The act of giving lies the expression of the giver’s aliveness.
- Mature love requires care (which is effort/scarification/action), responsibility, respect and knowledge.
- Different type of loves.
- If you only love a “special person”, you do not love anyone. You too are not in unity, you are a separation of two against the world.
- Selfish is different from self-love. If a person can love others the right way, he can love himself, too. If a person only love others, he cannot love at all.
- Like any art, mastering love requires 4 factors: discipline, concentration, patience, and supreme concern with the mastery of the art.
- I’ve had a conversation with my roommate about discipline while reading the book. I quite agree with him about discipline as not a concrete routine but the will to do what you are not wanting to do but you know you should do it.
- Concentration: Learning to be with oneself, with no activity whatsoever. Mediation every morning after waking up and evening before going to sleep. Being sensitive about yourself. Living the present.
- Overcoming of one’s narcissism. Try to develop objectivity, humility, and reasons.
- Having faith, not in God, but your partner. Believe in his/her fundamental values, and the core of his personality. Have faith in yourself as well.
I guess what the author is promoting is not unification with your partner but also with yourselves and everybody revolves you. With that, you will never lose “the love of your life”, since it cannot be taken.