Belén Cusi, Staff Writer
I’m in a VERY philosophic mood today. So, let’s talk about love.
“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”
Yeah, I can live with that. That’s psychologist and social philosopher Erich Fromm in “The Art of Loving.”
Stay with me. It isn’t as cheesy as it sounds. A friend recommended the book to me during my summer abroad in Argentina, so when I ran across an old $2 copy at a used bookstore, I went for it. “El arte de amar.” It sounds nicer in Spanish, I must say. Less self-help-ish.
But let’s get to the heart of the matter. Pun intended. Why am I reading this book? Besides holding my friend in high esteem and trusting the advice, I also confess to having strayed from my “love is good and pure and wonderful” days, when my actions were still more or less guided by my Catholic faith and my vision of love was a fairy tale of prudence and promise rings. Let’s just say I’ve had my fun, if you will, over the last few years. I’ve met fun people, good-looking people (so handsome), weird people (really weird). I’ve played around, almost thought I was in love, knew I definitely was NOT in love, indulged in some plain craziness… all in the name of adventure.
What I haven’t had is what I’ve actually wanted all along: a boyfriend, a serious relationship, that feeling that I’ve got a partner in this world who is there for me and me for him, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. What I haven’t had is something real. Love. And the ironic thing is that I’m actually someone who loves people very much. People, human beings, humanity. I have so much love to give that it hurts, but a couple of heartbreaks in the last few years have turned me into a sneaky, hard, apathetic person. Instead of reacting to my disappointments with love, I shut myself off from it. Sound like anyone you know?
I basically made myself fool-proof against rejection. It’s not hard. Just date multiple people at the same time, free and easy. Play. Don’t commit. Someone’s always around, you’re never alone, you’re always wanted and best, you’re always in control. The problem with this method is that after while, short or long, you just feel like shit. You do. And you’re lonelier than when you started because you know in your heart that it’s not really you—you hate it, it’s unfair, it’s meaningless, shallow and immature. It’s like emotional dementia, and you think you’re having fun, but really your heart’s just getting stupider and stupider. It’s becoming numb.
So, that’s why I started reading “The Art of Loving.” I want to go back to my roots. Maybe not that hard-core Catholic schoolgirl chastity, but I want to love people with meaning again. If I’ve gotten anything so far, it’s that when you really love someone, there are four aspects involved, according to Fromm. These are knowledge, respect, care and responsibility. To love someone is to know them—what makes them tick, what makes them smile, what they feel even when they won’t tell you. When you really know someone, then you can respect them for who they are, for what they feel, their hopes, desires, ambitions. You admire them. And you take care of them. To love someone is to actively worry about his or her life, well-being and development, whether in a personal or professional sphere. His or her concerns are your concerns. Your lover’s successes, your successes, and the failures yours as well. Where there is no such awareness, there is no love.
I could go on, but the premise of the book is that love is an art, much like any other art, or sport, that you practice and practice in order to hopefully, some day, master it.
Fromm says, “You love what you work for, and you work for what you love,” which means that love is something that requires effort and attention, and it is through that “work” that we grow. It is love that fuels your effort, and it is that effort which in turn fuels your love. I hope I haven’t lost you. Just think about it. Or better, check out the book.
Here’s what I’ll be thinking about and wrestling with this week, trying to figure out what I really want and how to live my life accordingly:
“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.”
– Erich Fromm
…Great. More work. But I have a “feeling” it will be worth it.
Until next time,