Love one cannot live without | Daily News


Love one cannot live without

Love poems, love songs, love letters have sprung up in thousands over the centuries. Quite apart from these creative pieces, quite a number of essays, philosophical treatises, and research works too have sprung up on the subject of the art of loving, both in the Orient as well as in the accident. The difficult anniversary edition of a fascinating work as written by Erich Fromm (1900 – 1980) titled ‘The Art of Loving’ (Harpernnial Modern Classics NY 1956) reached me as a stimulating gift, perhaps as a blessing, from Dr Sunil Govinnage domiciled in Australia.

Running to four chapters, the work could be reckoned as a psycho-analytical peep into the sensitive as well as philosophical aspects of the theme of love.

Human dimensions

Erich Fromm is one of the psychologists who had the penetrative insights to disclose some of the latent factors pertaining to the subject of existence. Some of the other books, written by him, are ‘Man for Himself’, ‘May Man Prevail?’ ‘The Sane Society’ and ‘Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis’.

In this work, Fromm attempts to explore the meanings that lay behind the question. Is love an art? He enquires into several human dimensions, depending on his observations and that includes events, sayings situations and biological assumptions as well as psychological case studies. Then he states: The first step to take (in order to understand love as an art) is to become aware that love is an art just as living is 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.

From here onwards, Fromm proceeds to address the question that goes as what are the necessary steps in learning any art. As precisely and sharp as possible, factual insights are laid down with adequate examples and clarifications. The fundamental and basic approach is a penetrative teaching technique.

Theory of existence

Chapter two is titled ‘The Theory of Love’ through which Fromm moves on to a deeper side of the concept of love, initially addressing love as the answer to the problem of human existence. He says that any theory of love must begin with a theory of man, of human existence. As such, he tries to compare human love with those types of love that exist inanimate. This analysis is based on the instinct in the case of animals and intelligence in the case of humans.

He interprets how the man is gifted with a reason. He has awareness about himself, of his fellow men, of his past and of the possibilities of his future. From all these reasoning into the meaning of human existence, he comes a certain degree of a concept called human love, which is supreme and all-pervasive.

He traversed as far back to Adam and Eve and refers to a term less known by most of us as a tree of knowledge of good and evil; others they have disobeyed, released from it to be human. As a theory, Fromm lays down that human love is based on the likes and dislikes of being in separateness or living alone. The deepest need of man, then, is the need to overcome his separateness to leave the person of his aloneness. Followed by the explanation emerges the question.

How to overcome the separateness in order to achieve the union? Here the union between male and female is stressed as being in love, a term given to the union or getting into a oneness. This reaches a climax in denoting the term to divinity making the concept of a term that goes as divine love or the love of gods.

Different entities

The writer takes us in the context of human existence as visualised in the historically primitive tribes and cultures. This paves the way to feel how the concept of love patterned the existence of various types of members in a human group, their attachments and detachments linking the two sides, the love and hatred, or good or evil.

From a lengthy analysis, the writer reaches a second segment of the same, titled ‘Love between parents and child’. The maternal care on the part of the mother is explained succinctly in a moving manner. He states that when the child grows and develops, he becomes capable of perceiving things as they are. The satisfaction in being fed becomes differentiated from the nipple, the breast from the mother.

Eventually, the child experiences his thirst, the satisfying milk, the breast and the mother, as different entities. He learns to perceive many other things as being different as having an existence of their own. At that point, he learns to give them names at the same time he learns to handle things. He comes to know that he is not alone. He knows that he is being loved (I am loved).

I am loved as I am the mother’s child. Fromm puts it into a formula: I am loved for what I am or perhaps more accurately ‘I am loved because I am’. This interpretation too goes on in a logical and sensitive mode of expression. This is followed by the topic of discussion in ‘The Objects of Love’.

Final conclusion

Fromm states that ‘love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person. It is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole and not towards one object of love.

The reader is not forced to arrive at any final conclusion as the subject of love.

In a brief comment, he says that the most fundamental kind of love which underlies all types of love is brotherly love. By this, he means the sense of responsibility, care, respect, knowledge of any other human being who wishes to further his life. This is the kind of love that the Bible speaks of when it says ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’.

As such, brotherly love is the love for all human beings. It is characterised by its very lack of exclusiveness. As the saying goes, if I have developed the capacity for love, then I cannot help loving my brothers or in a broader way my fellow mates or comrades. Followed by all these types, come the segment on love erotic.

The term erotic in its highest sense is explained as a physical desire or a sensual desire for a human union. As Fromm states, it is by very nature exclusive and not universal. It is also perhaps the most deceptive form of love an attachment intermingled with sensual as well as sexual pleasure.

The theme has been examined from various points of view. The concept of erotic love reaches a certain degree of self-love, a term coined in the teachings of physiology and psychology.

The entire work is penetrative and resourceful.


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