The Art of Loving will surprise with ah-ha moments on nearly every page. Written in 1956, this book seems more relevant today than ever. If everyone read and understood this book and moved toward the wisdom presented, I believe the world would be a better place.
Eric Fromm presents ideas that transcend religion, politics and economics and he frames love in untraditional terms. It's not something we "fall into" if we are lucky and find the right object (person). Rather love requires knowledge and effort, it's about our capacity to love, which is a faculty that we develop rather than inherently have.
Most of the book is about the theory of love—insights into, brotherly love, motherly love, exotic love, self-love, and the love of God. From both philosophical and psychological perspectives, Fromm explores, with gentle succinctness, the depth of the human condition.
The last chapter confronts the more difficult problem—the practice of the art of loving. Any artistic endeavor requires discipline, concentration, patience, and supreme concern for its mastery. In addition to these general practices, the art of love also requires faith and courage.
Fromm’s faith is “rational faith”, which is rooted in one’s own experience of feeling or thought. Not “irrational faith,” which is a faith in the acceptance of something as true only because an authority or the majority say so.
To have rational faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk and the readiness to accept pain and disappointment. “To be loved, and to love, need courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern—and to take the jump and stake everything on these values.”
Perhaps at his most radical, Fromm states that the principle underlying capitalistic society and the principle of love are incompatible and that our present-day, production centered, commodity-greedy Western society cannot be expected to continue indefinitely. Indeed!
Fromm was way ahead of his time and the rest of us should try and catch up as quickly as possible.