Although outdated on the subjects of male-female gender roles and same-sex relationships, The Art of Loving by social philosopher Erich Fromm is a lovely quick read about brotherly, familial, romantic and religious love, inspiring propensity for paradoxical thought and reconciliation of opposing views. Also kind of reads like an introduction to Buddhism (Fromm did not identify as a Buddhist).
According to Fromm, humanity’s greatest pursuit is overcoming the loneliness we experience as a result of human separation. Most people expect that the right object will inspire loving fusion, but Fromm argues that this is impossible without a practice of love. While humans attempt to systemize fusion with the concept of work and family, these are mere shell structures without learning how to practice love.
For Fromm, the prerequisite for the practice of love is objectivity: the capacity to see another person as they are, independent of what they mean for you, and the desire that they grow and prosper on their own terms for their own good.
In short: respect each other’s journeys.
Union by conformity is not intense and violent; it is calm, dictated by routine, and for this very reason often is insufficient to pacify the anxiety of separateness…. Man becomes a “nine to fiver”, he is part of the labor force, or the bureaucratic force of clerks and managers. He has little initiative, his tasks are prescribed by the organization of the work; there is even little difference between those high up on the ladder and those on the bottom. They all perform tasks prescribed by the whole structure of the organization, at a prescribed speed, and in a prescribed manner. Even the feelings are prescribed: cheerfulness, tolerance, reliability, ambition, and an ability to get along with everybody without friction. Fun is routinized in similar, although not quite as drastic ways. Books are selected by the book clubs, movies by the film and theater owners and the advertising slogans paid for by them; the rest is also uniform: the Sunday ride in the car, the television session, the card game, the social parties. From birth to death, from Monday to Monday, from morning to evening — all activities are routinized, and prefabricated. How should a man caught in this net of routine not forget that he is a man, a unique individual, one who is given only this one chance of living, with hopes and disappointments, with sorrow and fear, with the longing for love and the dread of the nothing and of separateness?