Blog Post: To Have or To Be...wisdom from Erich Fromm

Linda Elder
Aug 26, 2020 • 33d ago
To Have or To Be...wisdom from Erich Fromm

{"ops":[{"insert":"In his classic book entitled “"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"To Have Or To Be"},{"insert":",” Erich Fromm offers suggestions for cultivating what he calls “The New Man“. We will hopefully forgive his use of the term man for what is intended to mean persons or human beings.\n \nIn this remarkable but mostly forgotten book, Fromm argues that for humans to achieve a sense of well-being, all around, we must focus, not on what we can "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"get"},{"insert":" but what we can "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"be"},{"insert":". He points out that capitalism, as we have developed it, and the rise of technology, have together led to massive alienation and a failure in the vast majority of people to achieve what they would hope to achieve, and to be what they would want to be.  Fromm argues that people should focus on cultivating their highest and best inner selves themselves, or what he terms their “being,” rather than living in accordance with their possessions (including people they think they possess); he outlines a future world in which people develop character which entails the following, all of which connects with a robust conception of fairminded critical thinking (note that he even mentions critical thought):\n "},{"attributes":{"align":"justify"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"“• Willingness to give up all forms of having, in order to fully "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"be"},{"insert":".\n• Security, sense of identity, and confidence based on faith in what one is, on one's need for relatedness, interest, love, solidarity with the world around one, instead of on one's desire to have, to possess, to control the world, and thus become the slave of one's possessions.\n• Acceptance of the fact that nobody and nothing outside oneself give meaning to life, but that this radical independence and nothingness can become the condition for the fullest activity devoted to caring and sharing.\n• Being fully present where one is.\n• Joy that comes from giving and sharing, not from hoarding and exploiting.\n• Love and respect for life in all its manifestations, in the knowledge that not things, power, all that is dead, but life and everything that pertains to its growth are sacred.\n• Trying to reduce greed, hate, and illusions as much as one is capable.\n• Living without worshiping idols and without illusions, because one has reached a state that does not require illusions.\n• Developing one's capacity for love, together with one's capacity for critical, unsentimental thought.\n• Shedding one's narcissism and accepting the tragic limitations inherent in human existence.\n• Making the full growth of oneself and of one's fellow beings the supreme goal of living.\n• Knowing that to reach this goal discipline and respect for reality are necessary.\n• Knowing, also, that no growth is healthy that does not occur in a structure, but knowing, too, the difference between structure as an attribute of life and \"order\" as an attribute of no-life, of the dead.\n• Developing one's imagination, not as an escape from intolerable circumstances but as the anticipation of real possibilities, as a means to do away with intolerable circumstances.\n• Not deceiving others, but also not being deceived by others; one may be called innocent, but not naive.\n• Knowing oneself, not only the self one knows, but also the self one does not know—even though one has a slumbering knowledge of what one does not know.\n• Sensing one's oneness with all life, hence giving up the aim of conquering nature, subduing it, exploiting it, raping it, destroying it, but trying, rather, to understand and cooperate with nature.\n• Freedom that is not arbitrariness but the possibility to be oneself, not as a bundle of greedy desires, but as a delicately balanced structure that at any moment is confronted with the alternative of growth or decay, life or death.\n• Knowing that evil and destructiveness are necessary consequences of failure to grow.\n• Knowing that only a few have reached perfection in all these qualities, but being without the ambition to \"reach the goal,\" in the knowledge that such ambition is only another form of greed, of having.\n• Happiness in the process of ever-growing aliveness, whatever the furthest point is that fate permits one to reach, for living as fully as one can is so satisfactory that the concern for what one might or might not attain has little chance to develop.”\n\nHow many of the traps Fromm mentions here do you fall into?\n\n\n\nThe quote in this blog comes from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"To Have or To Be"},{"insert":", by Erich Fromm, NY: Bantam Books (1988). Pp. 155-157.\n"}]}


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