By Jack Canfora
The title of this post is but one example of why I’m not as good a songwriter as Lennon and McCartney. It’s hard to hum along to that title. Oh well, I have qualities they don’t. Debt, for instance.
Anyway, I’d caution you to take a step or two back, as I’m about to drop a name: I’ve been reading some of the work of philosopher Erich Fromm. Actually, a couple concurrently, due to a mixture of my unquenchable thirst for wisdom and my ADD. More the latter, if I’m honest. Pretty much all the latter. Actually, it’s mostly that, followed by my need to appear smart to you to fill my chasm of need, and like trace amounts of the wisdom thing.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, Erich Fromm. Boy, I wish I’d read him earlier in life, because in his book, The Art of Loving, (despite the title, it has very little in common with those Cosmo articles that patronizingly show up in all their issues: “25 Ways to Drive Him Crazy In Bed.” Side note: 25? Whose schedule could even accommodate that? People have jobs. Second side note: here’s the only one you “need” (God these articles really reek of misogyny, but that’s another post): show up), he articulates with great eloquence and cogency what it’s taken me decades to slowly come to learn. Simply put: love isn’t a noun. It’s a verb.
Duh, you say to yourselves. We’ve known that forever! Well, I was home sick the day they taught that. Or whatever. But I’m being typically reductive when I say the noun/verb thing. Fromm argues that you cannot love another person until you love – no, not yourself – you thought I was going to say that, admit it. Although, that, too. In fact, he says that, paradoxically, you can’t truly love someone until you’re content to be alone. What I was going to say is you can’t love someone specifically until you love everyone. Which, let’s face it, is a big ask.
I don’t think he’s saying that you have to love Stalin or Pol Pot, per se. “Paul Pot per se is actually pretty catchy. Watch out, McCartney. But in our culture (i.e., capitalism, spelled with a capital “Capitalism”), we are told subliminally and supraliminally (if that’s not a word, and I don’t think it is, I’m claiming it now) that all of our relationships are innately transactional. In other words, you’re looking for good value for your money. So you do the things that you believe will make what you’re selling (yourself) be in a position to receive, in your potential partner (or friend – this isn’t just about romantic love), the highest return for your investment.
I think we need to take a breath here, cos let’s face it, that last paragraph got pretty raunchy. But the point is, to love someone (again, a friend, family member, or romantic partner), you have to make a conscious choice to do so. Not because they’ll make you look good or bring you status or fulfill your hormonal impulses (this is mostly, I pray, for romantic partners), or in some way fix you (spoiler alert: they can’t, nor should they).
Love is making a hundred little choices every day to be committed to one you love, all the while knowing that no one can fulfill the saccharine and insidious fantasy of love our culture has planted in us like a microchip. And if NO ONE can fulfill those soul-warping aims, it stands to reason that ANYONE is capable of, well, failing to do that. Hence the whole love everyone point. I think. We love those we love not because they’re magical, unique snowflakes (Although I think there’s nothing wrong with believing in that a little but now and then), but because you’ve chosen – and continue to choose – to love this person.
This perhaps sounds unromantic. But I think that’s actually not only more romantic than those delusions we’ve been peddled, but something far more worth having than romance: connection. Or as EF puts it far better: “Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.”
It’s work, but the most worthwhile (and therefore perhaps hardest) work you can undertake. Is it worth the bother? I can’t answer that for you, not without some money up front, anyway, but I tend to agree with another quote of his: “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”
Boom. That’s the ballgame. So, I guess I’m saying The Beatles were on to something (they were also on a lot of things: LSD in those days, mostly). That may explain why they maybe overshot the target a bit. Love may not be ALL you need, but it – or at least it should – take up most of the space of “What you need.”
Anyway, that’s what I think, and what Erich Fromm elucidates far better than I just did. Good luck. I love all of you (or am trying to). Except you, Matt. He knows what he did.
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