Love is no passive possession; it’s active, a current rushing and flooding with intention. Incessantly mobile, love is no object; however, we mistake its energy for stasis, transforming its power to subjectification.
Love isn’t a commodity to exchange on the market; it’s something you do, and it must be done freely, or else, it’s robbed of all value.
In his book The Art of Loving (1956), Erich Fromm writes that “the majority of people today believe” that love is simply “a pleasant sensation, which to experience is a matter of chance.” He proposes three obstacles to our ability to conceive of love as an art form that “requires knowledge and effort.” The first obstacle is that we consider love’s issue one of how to be loved or lovable, as opposed to one of how to love.
“What most people in our culture mean by being lovable is essentially a mixture between being popular and having sex appeal.”Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
In our consumer driven economy, we focus our efforts on those facets of our personalities and appearance, which might make us marketable to others. It is not serendipitous that we use the expression “he/she is on the market,” when someone we know has transitioned from a committed relationship to singleness. At the same time, we shop, not for a mate with deep capacity for compassion and grace, but for one with particular attributes worthy of admiration and infatuation.
“The object should be desirable from the standpoint of its social value, and at the same time should want me, considering my overt and hidden assets and potentialities. Two persons thus fall in love when they feel they have found the best object available on the market, considering the limitations of their own exchange values.”Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
The final obstacle to our ability to conceive of love as an art is the intoxication experienced through infatuation and sexual conquest. The euphoria of a new relationship with its intensity of emotion and engulfing intimacy masquerades as love; however this attraction, this bond, does not endure.
“If two people who have been strangers, as all of us are, suddenly let the wall between them break down, and feel close, feel one, this moment of oneness is one of the most exhilarating, most exciting experiences in life. It is all the more wonderful and miraculous for persons who have been shut off, isolated, without love.”Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
How much more heartbreaking, then, is the face off with reality when these isolated individuals, who’ve succumbed to the mirage of infatuation, find that “their antagonism, their disappointments, their mutual boredom kill whatever is left of the initial excitement” produced by the hormonal alchemy of courtship.
We’ve all been there at some point. Intoxicated by pheromones, spellbound by the belief that we’ve grasped the ephemeral. Unfortunately, “There is hardly any activity, enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love.”
Such is only the case because we insist that love is an object to attain, rather than a skill to hone. Fromm offers an alternative, which I intend to explore in greater depth. He asserts “Love is an art.” To learn an art, one must master theory and then one must master its practice.
Will you join me in the study?
If you would like to read The Art of Loving, you can buy it from me (below) and a portion of the proceeds will help me stop the cycle of Dumb Shit.