The art of being


How much do I want to read more? 7/10

This discussion toward a philosophy of being is interesting. This is a mindshift, and it needs to be practiced every day.


Editor’s Foreword

Erich Fromm understood the alternatives having or being to be “two fundamental modes of existence, or two different kinds of orientation toward self and the world, two different types of character structure whose respective dominance determines the totality of how a person thinks, feels, and acts.”
In the end, a person orients his life either toward having or toward being.

Convictions of a political, ideological, and religious nature can also be acquired as possessions and staunchly defended—to the point of bloodshed.
Virtually anything can be possessed if a person orients his way of life toward having.
Orientation toward not-having is a having orientation, too. Fromm is not advocating asceticism;
whether someone “possesses as if he were not possessing.”
each person can quickly test himself or herself by asking what he or she finds particularly valuable, thereby getting an idea of what would happen if he or she were to lose what was important and valuable: whether he or she would lose the ground from under his or her feet and whether life would then become meaningless. If one can then no longer feel any self-reliance or self-value (intrinsic to oneself), if life and work are no longer worth anything, then one is determining life according to an orientation toward having.

The person who is oriented toward having always makes use of crutches rather than his or her own two feet. That person uses an external object in order to exist.

Just as a person has a physical capacity for self-reliance, which can be replaced with crutches if need be, so does one have psychic abilities for self-reliance, too: a capacity for love, a capacity for reason, and a capacity for productive activity. But it is also possible for a person to replace those innate psychic powers with an orientation toward having, such that a capacity for love, reason, and productive activity depends upon the possession of those objects of having upon which the heart is set.

Love, reason, and productive activity are one’s own psychic forces that arise and grow only to the extent that they are practiced; they cannot be consumed, bought, or possessed like objects of having, but can only be practiced, exercised, ventured upon, performed. In contradistinction to objects of having—which are expended when they are used up—love, reason, and productive activity grow and increase when they are shared and used.

Orientation toward being always means that one’s purpose in life is oriented toward one’s own psychic forces. One recognizes, becomes acquainted with, and assimilates the fact that the unknown and the strange in oneself, and in the external world, are characteristic of one’s own self. By learning this, one attains a greater and more comprehensive relationship with one’s self and one’s environment.

so that one can genuinely experience one’s own psychic forces of reason, love, and productive activity and so that those powers can grow by use.

PART I

1. On the Art of Being

What is the goal of living? What is life’s meaning for man?
That we want to live, that we like to live, are facts that require no explanation. But if we ask how we want to live—what we seek from life, what makes life meaningful for us—then indeed we deal with questions to which people will give many different answers.

Even among the different concepts of happiness there is still a view shared by most thinkers: We are happy if our wishes are fulfilled, or, to put it differently, if we have what we want.
the question of the aim and meaning of life leads us to the problem of the nature of human needs.