Is Love an Art?
Erich Fromm

  

Is love an art?  Then it requires knowledge and effort.  Or is love a pleasant sensation, which to experience is a matter of chance, something that one "falls into" if one is lucky?  This little book is based on the former premise, while undoubtedly the majority of people today believe in the latter.

Not that people think that love is not important.  They are starved for it; they watch endless numbers of films about happy and unhappy love stories, they listen to hundreds of trashy songs about love -- yet hardly anyone thinks that there is anything that needs to be learned about love.

This particular attitude is based in several premises which either singly or combined tend to uphold it.  Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one's capacity to love.  Hence the problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable.  In pursuit of this aim they follow several paths.  One, which is especially used by men, is to be successful, to be as powerful and rich as the social margin of one's position permits.  Another, especially used by women, is to make oneself attractive, by cultivating one's body, dress, etc.  Other ways of making oneself attractive, used by both men and women, are to develop pleasant manners, interesting conversation, to be helpful, modest, inoffensive. . . . what most people in our culture mean by being lovable is essentially a mixture between being popular and having sex appeal.

A second premise behind the attitude that there is nothing to be learned about love is the assumption that the problem of love is the problem of an object, not the problem of a faculty.  People think that to love is simple, but that to find the right object to love -- or to be loved by -- is difficult. . . . to a vast extent people are in search of "romantic love," of the personal experience of love which then should lead to marriage.  This concept greatly enhances the importance of the object as against the importance of the function.

The third error leading to the 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. . . . people take the intensity of their infatuation, the being "crazy" about each other, for proof of the intensity of their love, while it may only prove the degree of their preceding loneliness.

This attitude -- that nothing is easier than to love -- has continued to be the prevalent idea about love in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love.  if this were the case with any other activity, people would be eager to know the reasons for the failure, and to learn how one could do better -- or they would give up the activity.  Since the latter is impossible in the case of love, there seems to be only one adequate way to overcome the failure of love -- to examine the reasons for this failure, and to proceed to study the meaning of love.

The first step 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.

Could it be that only those things are considered worthy of being learned with which one can earn money or prestige, and that love, which "only" profits the soul, but is profitless in the modern sense, is a luxury we have no right to spend much energy on?
   

The Art of Loving. Erich Fromm
Fromm was a follower of Freud who seemed to take many of Freud's ideas and humanize them, presenting them in a very accessible way. If you want to know about love from a very human psychological perspective, Fromm hits a lot of nails right on the head, especially in Chapter Three, "Love's Disintegration in Western Society."

  
   

A five-word sentence that could change the world
tomorrow is "What would love do now?"

Neale Donald Walsch

  


 
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