“The affirmation of one’s own life, happiness, growth and freedom is rooted in one’s capacity to love”
The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm has been lying on my bedside table for about a year before I recently picked it up. My roommate gave it to me after we moved out, saying I needed Erich more than her right now. For the longest time, I kept putting reading it off, not wanting to hear what he might say. But I think I read it at just the right time, needing to hear his thoughts now when I am at a state to take it in (to have it, as he would say). Here are some aspects of his book that I found highly interesting but it is by no means a summary. I highly encourage you to read or skim through it, it is a rather comforting read and additionally, Erich is very quotable. (I call him by his first name, I feel like I we connected while reading which is why this feels right).
Erich identifies that in our society, most people see problem of love in being loved, rather than loving. He differs from this view – to him, love is a practice, not a feeling. Humans try to solve their lonesome in romantic love, which means objectifying the other person. But he describes real love as a union with someone or something outside of oneself on the deepest level: It is to see a person as he is, not in the way in which we need them. As a prerequisite for this, the character of the self has to be completely recognized and developed. In real love, the own individuality does not get lost but is united with the other person’s individuality.
Love can only exist in freedom, never under pressure. The art of love lies in giving, not in receiving. “Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love”. One aspect I found myself struggling with at first is his statement that truly loving one person means loving the world, all individuals and oneself. I could not grasp the concept of loving all individuals at first but I think he means that love is attitude and ordination of character towards the world which also includes all beings. If you only look on the surface and focus for example on appearances, you will only see differences. But on the deepest level, human beings are united through the same core which is identity-creating. We are all equals. Loving everybody and the world also includes loving yourself. “I love in you everybody. I love through you the world, I love in you also myself”.