Even love as a "haven from aloneness" is bound to fail. To love at all is to be engaged with humankind, with eyes open.
Erich Fromm, in his 123-page treatise on love, shares with the world his idea that love exists in the world, not as something we practice extensively but take for granted. We recognize the need for love, a way to fill the void of our human separateness, and yet spend little time focusing on it as something to achieve in the world. Money, success, achievement, glory all find their ways to the tops of lists of what we hope to achieve but love fails to make the list.
Fromm recognizes this and comes to the discussion hoping to bring the reader to the idea that love is an art form. It is an art form in the sense that we must practice every day and hone our skills much like anything else we do.
Imagine all of the self-help books we encounter and how many focus on the practice of love as a skill?
As Fromm notes: "Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object and that everything goes by itself afterward."
This object focus on love creates endless problems as we focus not on our love as a skill but what hope to get from love itself. Love is not about the object and receiving something in return but rather the full commitment of ourselves to that of another person.
It's hard not to read a book like this and agree with what he is saying. "To love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person." We watch the speed with which the world moves and seem to find ourselves lacking this commitment. If we are unwilling to consider love this type of activity, what does that mean for society?
What does that mean for me?
Until we start to look at love as an activity; something we need to put on our list of goals and achievements and not just assume things will work out, we will struggle. We leave things to chance and if divorce rates are any indication of the chance we are at about 50/50.
Love needs to become something we strive to achieve every day. A love for life and the willingness to withstand frustration. How many of us are able to keep going despite the worst of odds? Look at the people we look to in the business world and their success and achievements. Likely they never gave up. Love is a skill that we can't give up and must be willing to put in that same amount of effort.
Think about your current relationships. Do you find yourself trying every day? Do you find yourself putting others before you and doing the small things every day to show your love; unconditionally. Not expecting anything back.
Fromm recognizes the state of the world and the state of love within this world. He recognizes that we must do a better job of recognizing that we were all born to love but must work at it like any other skill. "To take the difficulties, setbacks and worries of life as a challenge which to overcome makes us strong, rather than as unjust punishment which should not happen to us, requires faith and courage."
Faith and courage are required for love as well.