Blog Post: New Year’s Resolutions and The Art of Loving

Linda Elder
Jan 01, 2021 • 3y ago
New Year’s Resolutions and The Art of Loving

{"ops":[{"insert":"As we move into the new year, we are once again reminded of the life we have lived and the life we are yet to live, of the mistakes we have made and the resolutions we have failed to live up to. We seek to live at a higher level, but how can this be done in the largely pathological world in which we find ourselves? Our reflections, at the beginning of each new year tend to be either repeats of reasonable past resolutions at which we have failed, (such as eating more healthy foods and exercising more), or are superficial declarations suggested to us from mainstream media (such as reading more books).\n\nTo live at a level that brings greater contentment and satisfaction entails expanding our minds in new and edifying directions, which are hard to find in our world filled with glitz, glamour, triviality, and ostentation.  To find a reasonable path to enlightenment, we should look to the best thinking available to us. For me, this means regularly reading in the classics, as many of you know.\n\nFor instance, as we face the new year, this is a good time to revisit our concept of love – to ask ourselves whether and to what degree we understand how to live a life that embodies loving, to ask ourselves weather we have ever seriously contemplated the idea of love that drives us or that has guided our actions to this point, to ask whether we can find ways to give more love and to examine whether our concept of love is more about getting than about giving. No more enlightening book has been written on the idea of love than “"},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Art of Loving"},{"insert":",” written by Erich Fromm in 1956.  In the introduction to the 2006 edition of this book, Peter D. Kramer writes:\n\n“The book draws on the whole of Fromm’s experience. We are social creatures, made anxious by our separateness. The culture offers false and easy means for addressing our anxiety – through sameness. It invites us to consume the same goods, work at the same jobs, adopt the same goals – defining ourselves through conformity and insignificant nuances of difference. But if we lack the courage to be individuals, we will never achieve love, since ‘love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity.’ Love is not taking, out of insincerity; it starts in giving - of joy, interest, understanding, humor, sadness, ‘of all expressions and manifestations of that which is alive’ in us."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nFor Fromm, love is rebellion against a commercial ideal. He has particular contempt for glossy magazine articles in which happy marriage looks like corporate middle management. The ‘smoothly functioning team,’ he writes ‘is the well-oiled relationship between two persons who remain strangers all their lives.’ Even love as a ‘haven from aloneness’ is bound to fail. To love at all is to be engaged with humankind, with eyes open. ‘If someone would want to reserve his objectivity for the beloved person, and think he can dispense with it in his relationship to the rest of the world, he will soon discover that he fails both here and there.’"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\n…Love is a capacity we can develop in ourselves. And then, even if ‘the principle underlying capitalistic society in the principle of love are incompatible,’ we can find space in which to act."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nWhy has "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Art of Loving"},{"insert":" survive? Because we know that Fromm is on target – that we cannot find love by acceding lazily to the seductions of the culture. Nor will it do for us to oscillate between complacence and aggression. To change the love we receive, we will have to change our capacity to give love…. There is in every aspect of the book evidence of the traits Fromm proposes to us as paramount, self-awareness, humility, and courage. And here is the proof of his argument: to be addressed by such a person is to feel challenged, to feel sustained, to feel loved (pp. xiii-xv)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nIn the preface to the book, Fromm says:\n\nThe reading of this book would be a disappointing experience for anyone who expects easy instruction in the art of loving. This book, on the contrary, wants to show that love is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached by him. It wants to convince the reader that all his attempts for love are bound to fail, and unless he tries most actively to develop his total personality, so as to achieve a productive orientation; that satisfaction in individual love cannot be attained without the capacity to love one’s neighbor, without true humility, courage, faith and discipline. In a culture in which these qualities are rare, at the attainment of the capacity to love must remain a rare achievement. Or – anyone can ask himself how many truly loving persons he has known (p. xvii)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\n\nQuotes for this blog are taken from Fromm, E. (1956; 2006). "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Art of Loving"},{"insert":". (NY: HarperPerennial Modern Classics).\n"}]}

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Posted by: Joseph Halter

{"ops":[{"insert":"Great read and perhaps the ultimate challenge for all of us.\n"}]}