This book will change how you look at love.

This book has, quite literally, changed much about the way I thought about love until now.  Majorly mind blown over here, fellow readers.

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm is a must read, its a big one.  A relationship and even life changer.

I have found that within my own reading, maybe 1 out of every 50 or so books ends up being a game changer (aka, shifts in significant ways, my thinking about something major in life).  This is one of those books.

A few especially poignant, thought provoking passages from within:

–“People today, especially in Westernized culture, are starved for love.  They watch endless films about happy and unhappy love stories, they listen to hundreds of trashy songs about love- and yet hardly anyone thinks that there is anything that needs to be learned about love.  One of the main problems here is that most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving.”

–“Closely related to our problems often finding as well as maintaining love is another feature characteristic of contemporary culture. Our whole culture is based on the appetite for buying.  On the idea of a mutually favorable exchange.  Modern mans happiness consists in the thrill of looking in shop windows, and in buying all that he can afford to.  He (or she) looks at people in a similar way.  For a man, an attractive girl.  And for a woman, an attractive man.  These are the prizes they are after.  “Attractive” usually means a nice package of qualities which are popular and sought after on the personality market.  People are ever looking for the “best available object” on the market.”

–“The third error leading to an assumption that there is nothing to be learned about love lies in the confusion between the initial experience of “falling” in love and the permanent state of being in love, or as we might better say, of “standing” in love.”

–“The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art.  If we want to learn how to love, we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art.  Say, music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.  How can one learn this, as well as any art?  Two steps. One, mastery of the theory, and two, practice.”

To love someone is not just a strong feeling.  It is also a decision, a judgement.  In our Westernized culture, we say love is mostly something that appears suddenly, a spontaneous, emotional reaction of suddenly being gripped by irresistible feeling.  While this is a small aspect of it, in general, its more an act of will and choice.

–With regards to the practice of love (as he says, in terms of the art of loving, learning any art whether it be painting, engineering, writing, medicine, whatever, requires two things.  Mastery of the theory, and then practice)…he begins by talking about discipline being important in terms of mastering any art (including love).  I shall not be good at anything if I do not do it in a disciplined way, he says.  Anything I do only if I am “in the mood” may be a nice or amusing hobby, but I shall never become a master in that art. He says the problem isn’t only the discipline of practice in that particular art(love or other), as in say, practicing every day for a certain amount of hours, but instead that it is that of discipline of ones whole life.

–Then he talks about concentration being a necessary condition for mastering an art (love or other).  Concentration though, is so rare in our culture now, he says, which leads to an unconcentrated, watered down, and diffused life.  We do so many things at once, such as read, listen to music, talk, smoke, eat, etc.  We are consumers with open mouths, eager and read to swallow everything.  Thus, we are rarely truly and totally focused on anything.

A third factor that’s important in the art of loving is patience.  For modern man though, patience is as difficult to practice as discipline and concentration.  Our whole culture and industrial system fosters exactly the opposite: quickness.  The quicker the better.  Of course, with some things, there are important economic reasons for this.  But, as in so many other aspects, human values have become determined by economic values.  What is good for machines must be god for man- so goes the logic.  Modern man thinks he loses something- time- when he does not do things quickly.  Yet, he doesn’t know what to do with the time he does gain, except kill it.

–Eventually, a condition of learning any art is a supreme concern with the mastery of the particular art.  If the art is not something of supreme importance to the person, the apprentice will never learn it.  He will remain, at best, a good dilettante.  But will never become a master.

He elaborates that concentration is by far a most difficult to practice in our culture, in which everything seems to act against the ability to concentrate.  One must learn to be concentrated in everything one does.  Listening to music, in reading a book, in talk to a person, in looking at a beautiful view, in making love, in spending time with someone you care for, the list goes on.  The activity at this very moment must be the only thing that matters, to which one is fully given.  If one is concentrated, it matters little what one is doing.  The important, as well as the unimportant things, assume a new dimension of reality, because they have ones full attention.

To be concentrated means to live fully in the present moment, in the here and now.  Not to think of the next thing to be done, while I am doing something right now.  Needless to say, he says, this must be practiced most of all by people who love each other.  They must learn to be close to each other without running away, in the many ways in which this is customarily done.

Additionally, he says “avoid bad company.”  And by bad company, he is referring to people who are vicious and destructive, that one should avoid their company because their orbit is poisonous and depressing.

As well as the company of zombies, he says.  Of people whose soul is dead, although their body is alive, of people whose thoughts and conversations are trivial, who chatter instead of talk, and who assert cliché opinions instead of truly thinking deeply.

And.  The final passages I found especially thought provoking:

–“One of the most significant expressions of love, and especially of marriage with the alienated structure that much of our society exudes nowadays, is the idea of the “team.”  In any number of articles on happy marriage, the ideal described is that of the smoothly functioning team.  This description is not too different from the idea of a smoothly functioning employee; he/she should be “reasonably independent,” “cooperative, tolerant, and at the same time, ambitious and aggressive.”  Thus, the marriage counselor tells us, the husband should “understand” his wife, and be helpful.  He should comment favorably on her new dress, and on a tasty dish.  She in turn, should understand when he comes home tired and disgruntled.  She should listen attentively when he talks about his business troubles, should not be angry but understanding when he forgets her birthday.  All this kind of relationship amounts to is the well-oiled relationship between two persons, who ultimately remain strangers all their lives, who never arrive at a truly “central” relationship but instead, who treat one another with courtesy and who attempt to make each other feel better.  This is very often mistaken for love and intimacy, when it isn’t really either.”

Real, deep love, experienced thus, is instead, a constant challenge.  It is not a resting place, but a moving, growing, working together.  Even whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves from the essence of their existence.  That they are one with each other by being one with themselves– rather than hiding from, sweeping under the rug, or fleeing from themselves.

There is only one proof for the presence of love: the depth of the relationship, and the aliveness and strength in each person concerned.  This is the fruit by which love is recognized.”

Faith and courage are major, paramount aspects of truly loving.  That without them, one cannot fully love.  He says, once one realizes this fully, they will also recognize that while one is consciously afraid of not being loved, the real, though usually unconscious fear is that of loving.

–Because to love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person.  Love is an act of faith, and whomever is of little faith is also of little love.

Whoa.  Poignant, thought provoking, deep, really good stuff.  Makes ya think.  Or if not, it should.  I absolutely loved this book.  Its a short and sweet read which packs a powerful punch.  Well worth the 3-4 hours of your time it would take to read.





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