March 24, 2017
In their never-ending search for the best way to live, Greek philosophers argued over the relative benefits of hedonic and eudaimonic happiness. Hedonic well-being sees happiness as a factor of increased pleasure and decreased pain, while eudaimonic (“human flourishing”) happiness has more to do with having a larger purpose or meaning in life. A recent study from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill psychologist Barbara Fredrickson may reveal which form of happiness is more beneficial for health and well-being.
The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, found that while both types of happiness can make you feel good, the latter could promote physical health and longevity as well. Using phone interviews, questionnaires and blood samples, the study explored how the two forms of happiness affected individuals on a genetic level. Participants with more hedonic and less eudaimonic well-being were found to have a lower production of virus-attacking antibodies, while those with more eudaimonic well-being experienced an increase in antibody production.
The traditional Chinese medicine technique is believed to address imbalances in a person’s qi (pronounced chi), the circulating energy within every living thing. Whether or not you believe in the existence of this energy flow, a new study published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that the age-old practice may be an effective way to relieve migraines, arthritis and other chronic pains.
Analyzing previous research data from approximately 18,000 subjects, researchers found that acupuncture was more effective than sham acupuncture and standard western care when treating various types of pain, including migraines and chronic back pain.
Traditional Buddhist teachings suggest that community is a key component in any happy, fulfilled life. A 2010 study conducted by Brigham Young University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers confirmed this belief, concluding that a healthy social life promotes longevity.
In analyzing the 148 studies — involving more than 300,000 individual participants — available on the subject, the researchers discovered that those with stronger social relationships maintained a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival. The effect of social relationships on mortality risk is even greater than the effect of exercise or obesity.
What the hell is wrong with the British people? They seem to live in a fantasy fairy tale where they allow German parasites-bastards to rule over them. No wonder Britain is drowning in an alcohol-drug-sex abuse frenzy. (Britain is the #1 consumer of cocaine in Europe and has the highest infection rates for gonorrhea). That’s what happens when you believe in lies and bullshit. Get rid of these parasites England.
And fix your own damned house pathetic moochers.
A planned £369 million refurbishment to Buckingham Palace has got some people calling for an end to the monarchy. But what exactly would that look like?
The Royal Family (Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis AP/Press Association Images)
Once again, some people are unhappy with the Royal Family. First it was the announcement last week that the Treasury intends to spend £369 million on doing up Buckingham Palace in the middle of a housing crisis, and then – bizarrely, given the outrage over the refurbishment handout – the Palace put out a job advert for a new gardener, offering a salary that works out at less than the London Living Wage.
Both of these things have provoked “action”, with former journalist Mark Johnson starting a popular online petition demanding that the royals pay for repairs themselves. Bloggers on Royal Central – which, in fairness, is essentially a royals fan site – and The Spectator have pointed out that it is actually money generated through an additional tax on the Crown Estate that will fund the work, not money from the British taxpayer, but for many that still doesn’t justify the huge amount of cash being spent on the Palace as the rest of the country falls apart.
Either way, none of this is particularly new; anti-monarchy petitions have always had a presence online. Yet polls consistently show that people prefer Jubilee bunting and ritualised deference to democratic accountability. In fact, about 70 percent of the UK’s population continually say they would rather keep the royals than chuck them.
But imagine a world in which that statistic leant the other way. Theoretically, what would it take to actually remove the royals from the throne, and what would happen once they were gone? I’m glad you asked.
Republic is an organisation campaigning for a “democratic alternative to the monarchy”. Pia de Keyser, the group’s campaigns officer, says their vision of change involves years of healthy public discourse, gradually pushing the issue onto the political agenda, before provoking a national referendum.
“Since Brexit, we do definitely feel that we wouldn’t want any referendum to do with this to be as divisive,” she says over the phone. “There would need to be a sizeable majority before the referendum would be held – it wouldn’t be a case of ’51 percent would do it’. Public education should be far more balanced and accurate, unlike Brexit, where so many people were googling ‘What is the EU?’ right before it.”
Historian Phillip Murphy tells me the warm fuzzy feelings people have towards the monarchy are mostly for Elizabeth herself, rather than the institution as a concept. “I think as long as she’s there, there will be pretty strong support,” he says over the phone. “But once she’s gone, there may be a change of mood.”
Relative to the Queen, Charles isn’t exactly popular. He’s been criticised in the past for sticking his oar into political matters, and if he kept at that it would highlight the problematic royal prerogative powers monarchs still technically have. Pure speculation here, but I can’t imagine that would do much for his ratings.
A referendum in favour of a republic would only be the start. De Keyser says Republicans don’t have a concrete vision of what post-monarchy Britain would look like – and that they wouldn’t yet want to. “Like Brexit, we would be facing a situation that we haven’t had to take through Parliament before. It could be quick, but like with Brexit, my instinct would be not to rush it,” she explains. “The ideal would be that we would slowly, pragmatically walk through it.”
Beyond the whole “what, so we’re getting a president now?” chat, this process would also involve lots of complicated legal disentanglements, like working out who would occupy the position of head of the Commonwealth and the Church of England.
Also, as Murphy says, you’ve got to be careful that a restructuring of political power doesn’t just leave a new demagogic-shaped hole to be filled. “In a world in which Donald Trump has just been elected, and in which Marine Le Pen seems to be within fighting distance of the French presidency, even people on the left now might be thinking, ‘Do we really want Nigel Farage as our president?'” he points out. “Which might be the likely result of a national election for a president.”
Anti-monarchy campaigns tend to revolve around the injustice of the massive amounts of wealth and privilege commanded by a select few people lucky enough to be born into the right family. So, the thinking goes, in a post-monarchy UK, while the royals would still have a private wealth in the multi-millions – thanks in part to their extensive property portfolio – all profits generated by the Crown Estate would be handed over to the people.
Currently, the Queen pays an 85 percent tax on earnings generated through the Crown Estate – a huge property and land portfolio, including Regent Street and Buckingham Palace, worth about £12 billion – with the remaining 15 percent going to her to pay for stuff like royal travel and Palace garden parties. According to Murphy, this 15 percent going to the people instead wouldn’t do much to correct social and economic imbalances.
“You might hope that it would change British society,” he says, “but some of those divisions – the aristocracy, the power of public schools, the power of Oxbridge – unless you really radically changed the way society is governed, they would still be there in the social character of Great Britain.”
This year that 15 percent worked out at nearly £43 million, which is admittedly just a fraction of the £1 billion the NHS spends every three days, but, you know, every little helps. And what of Buckingham Palace, which – as part of the Crown Estate – would also theoretically be handed over?
“The 750 barely used rooms in the Palace would hopefully become a huge central community hub, or a museum, or a centre for education, or a hub for democracy,” says de Keyser.
“There’s the sense that [the royals] themselves are sort of trapped in many ways,” says de Keyser. “In terms of the human rights that the rest of us have, like freedom of expression and movement and choice of marriage partner, they are massively curtailed from enjoying.”
So in a republic, the Royal Family would be free to be whatever they wanted to be. EDM DJs! Chartered surveyors! Openly xenophobic! But in all likelihood, as Murphy says, “They would certainly still be on the guest list of any trendy party in London, New York or Paris.”
So we wouldn’t have to worry too much about them.
This is Sha’Tara. I was going to comment on this previous article:
The deepest reason why we are afraid of death, but decided to post additional thoughts on it instead. For your reference, here’s the article, my thoughts below.
“Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are. We believe in a personal, unique, and separate identity — but if we dare to examine it, we find that this identity depends entirely on an endless collection of things to prop it up: our name, our “biography,” our partners, family, home, job, friends, credit cards… It is on their fragile and transient support that we rely for our security. So when they are all taken away, will we have any idea of who we really are?
Without our familiar props, we are faced with just ourselves, a person we do not know, an unnerving stranger with whom we have been living all the time but we never really wanted to meet. Isn’t that why we have tried to fill every moment of time with noise and activity, however boring or trivial, to ensure that we are never left in silence with this stranger on our own?”
― Sogyal Rinpoche,
Indeed, before I entered my spiritual journey I was the person you read about above, Rinpoche’s normal human being. I remember a rage to live, to experience as much of physical sense satisfaction as possible, and a gnawing fear that somehow this would be denied me, or taken from me. From what I see of people around me, this is very much the case with most Earth-based people. They need “stuff” to give their lives solidity, and they need money to do things so they can add to their own, personal, experiences of life. I sense great dissatisfaction in their awareness that no matter how much they accumulate of things and experiences, there will be those who will have more; there will be some they crave and won’t be able to get because they lack the means, or their current lifestyle prevents them from attaining to a greater (and entitled) greater sense of material self.
They will be unhappy. Unsatisfied. Unfulfilled. Incomplete. They will go about casting blame for this condition. They will resent the very things that currently define who they are: their families, their jobs, their responsibilities. They will have a bucket list in the back of their minds and it will eat at them. Often enough they will suddenly ditch their life-long responsibilities to lunge after the promises in their bucket. And they will find chimeras.
For some of us “lucky” ones, we get a reprieve from this private hell. We are allowed to “die” and see a different and much expanded vista: the real worlds of the mind. And for some of those, the “lesson” learned is accepted, kept and put to use when we return to our little physical reality.
I need to say this because it is crucially important: no one needs to experience “NDE’s (Near Death Experiences) or even OBE’s (Out of Body Experiences) to become aware of what I’m talking about. Those esoteric experiences are for particularly stubborn and dumb types who won’t get it any other way but who somehow show promise and a propensity for things of the mind and of spirit. To attempt NDE’s or OBE’s to gain spiritual insight is ridiculous, since the fact such is sought indicates you are ready to make the mental transition or jump!
Transitioning into the spirit/mind realm means encountering your greater (higher) or more real and complete self. This is why it is important to do so. This greater self can and does function quite well without ANY of the normal attachments and clap-trap that defines the Earth-based self. It can function as a self-empowered, totally detached entity. It can decide everything about itself, including, and note, if and whom, it will love.
Most reading this will know already what “falling in love” entails. For me it always was an upsetting and confusing process that invariably left me the loser. Imagine my surprise when in my greater self to realize I could choose whether to love someone, and how that loving would be expressed. I was in control, imagine that. If there was passion, I allowed it to take place. If there was a cooling from the other, I accepted it and used that time for other pursuits. If the cooling went to freezing point, I accepted the dissolution as something completely normal. I could after all have a similar relationship with anyone else should I want one. None of it mattered. Would it shock you to read that the person you “do it with” isn’t in the least important, what’s important is the experience. Go ahead, dare admit that and break another Matrix programming link in the chain.
Imagine the same thing about work, about money, about any relationship. I was in control of my whole life even in the midst of storms. I knew I wouldn’t drown because there is no such thing. I would have a new experience to work with.
And so it is to this day. I’ve gone through “stuff” in the last twenty years that I know would have crushed or devastated many a “normal” Earthian because of attachments, expectations, sense of entitlement.
The common question, “Why is this happening to me?” is not asked by the spirit/mental intelligent, sentient, self aware entity because “this” isn’t relevant to its life. What’s relevant is “that” as in, taking in the cosmos in infinity.
[after midnight poem ~burning woman~ ]
Welcome, midnight old friend,
Welcome back for some remembering!
Remember the romance days
Of a youth that would never end?
Sitting at a dormer window
Listening to the wind howl,
And the downpour’s battering
Under unseen November skies;
Watching sparks of rain drops
Flash past the panes reflecting
That old yellow plastic shade
Hiding its forty watt bulb?
Remember my heart’s longing
As a half-mile away the freeway
Drove its cars into the night
And valiant semis thundered past
With their multicoloured lights
And my mind went with them
As they headed east? East,
Over mountains and across valleys
Where I’d just left my lover,
My too young lover, sensing
I’d be getting that letter soon,
The one all teen lovers dread
But can never stop the mailman
From leaving in the mailbox
Even at Christmas time.
[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]
I felt the need to write a follow-up to the essay, “How far back must we go?” So here’s a bit of an explanation and fill-in using the Earth world view I was taught to see by “the Teachers” some years back. Having no argument with their explanations, I present that world view here as my own which of course it now is.
The forces of mind control and repetitive actions due to programming, come in threes. I first clued into this from my doctrine-heavy Christian upbringing in which the three main Powers were a godhead of a father, a son and a holy spirit. This is dogma and must be believed in when one is confirmed in the Catholic Church. There are little variations to this dogma in any other Christian cult. It’s the basis for the whole faith. This awareness explains why Christianity was able to grow so rapidly into a world-dominating religion and remains the leading force of religious power even today. Remove one or two of these “persons” from Christianity and the house of cards collapses into meaninglessness, much as Islam is currently experiencing – they don’t have a Trinitarian god. Keep this in mind: Power comes in threes.
This isn’t about religion. This is about daily Earthian reality and how it all works. Basically, all of earth people’s lives are circumscribed by faith. You have to believe “in” certain dogmas (in science and economics they’re called “theories”) for the System to work – and by that I don’t mean it must make sense, it does not, never did, never will – but it certainly works well, just as well as did the Spanish inquisition. There is purpose behind it all, and that purpose is the exercise of Power Over. The less the number of power holders and the greater the number of oppressed, the more Power accumulates to the holders of it. No elitist power, from the would-be gods down through the hierarchy, is ever manufactured. All of it is forcefully extracted from billions of victims and slaves of the Power Holders.
How do they do this? How do they steal your power? Through lies, disinformation and the blatant, deliberate spreading of fear, which leads to mindless hate, which leads to wars and genocide. I just watched “High Plains Drifter” with Clint Eastwood. An old story of greed, violence and retribution. Basic story: “The Stranger” who never gives his name rides into the town of Lago as a drifter. Challenged, he shoots three gunmen and is hired to protect the townspeople from three other gunmen due to be released from jail and certain to come calling for being railroaded by the town’s leaders. Unbeknownst to the leaders, “The Stranger” is in town to avenge the killing of an honest sheriff by the entire town in cahoots with a mining outfit stealing gold from protected government land (a reservation?). To achieve his ends, “The Stranger” proceeds to sow dissension, suspicion, fear and hate among the townspeople who are all guilty of collusion in the death of their sheriff. In the end, the town is destroyed, its leaders killed and the three gunmen who had been hired to kill the sheriff are killed by “The Stranger”. Then he rides out of town, mission accomplished.
We like these kinds of simplistic stories where the lone “good guy” wins against impossible odds, and the villains are exposed, jailed or killed. But that is not what happens on earth, quite the opposite. We slave for the villains; we support them, raise statues to them, give them peace prizes, name towns, universities, streets after them. We vote them into office so they can further oppress and kill us with endless wars, meaningless labour, manufactured poverty, denial of basic justice and health care. And we give them all our money and more because we fear each other more than we hate them. This we know. Yet we cannot, ever, escape this destiny of subservience. If we get to hate them enough to overthrow them we immediately replace them with characters of the same mindset or even worse.
I said the forces of oppression come in threes. These are what I call the gods: Religion, the State and Money. Childishly simplistic concepts that shouldn’t ever see the light of day outside a sand box or playpen. Yet they rule the world (and much more!) and are never seen for what they are. And what keeps them in power? Three other very basic concepts: faith, hope and love. These are even presented as virtues in the Christian New Testament: 1Co. 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Indeed, you could attach faith to Religion; hope to the State apparatus; love to Money: three for three. An ever winning combination for the Powers.
How desperately Earthians need to believe such things are true by simple description. Yet the same people do everything in their power to deny every assertion ever made about love particularly. How many people stop dead in their tracks and ask themselves this honest question: why doesn’t love work? No one, because the answer would be devastating. Love’s power is to destroy what faith and hope pretend to build up. Yes, I say pretend, because they too are lies. They uphold a triumvirate of endless, circular oppression. Faith says, believe it even when every common sense in your mind says it’s a lie. Hope then says, stick with this belief and things will work out for the good in the end. Love says, if it feels good do it. Don’t think about it. Don’t reason it. Just do it. That could be the perfect motto for “free enterprise” capitalism.
A brief side trip with love. In a small US town (Wichita Falls, Texas) earlier this month a 20 year old man kills a 13 year old girl he was obsessively “in love with” by shooting her 14 times. Ain’t love grand. Going back a few millennia, for God, love meant wiping out all sentient air-breathing living creatures on an entire world… “Ge. 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth — men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air — for I am grieved that I have made them.” I know others who love the world as much as God does. Monsanto comes to mind… in fact the whole military industrial complex just loves the world to bits, literally, with its chemicals, cluster bombs and nukes.
Anyone with a grain of common sense and an iota of knowledge of history would be able to see through these forces of oppression. But of course the Powers don’t allow people to draw such a conclusion. There is a powerful programming at work that maintains a permanent delusion that says change comes from switching allegiance between the Powers. For a time, Religion rules the world. Then the State rules. When both have demonstrated their utter corruption, Money comes to the fore and forces all and sundry to worship at its altars. Bankers and “business” now rule the world and push for globalism through oppression and bloodshed so they can gain ever more power. Now you can see what corruption actually is, but it’s too late to save your civilization. When the last head of the triumvirate of power loses it as we are experiencing now, that is the end of the civilization the gods raised, murdered with and finally plundered to the bare bones.
Now some people are beginning to clue in that Money in the guise of capitalism is just another corrupt Power. But what do they talk about as a replacement? As a counter force? Some speak of people coming together under a “loving” deity, let’s call her “Gaia” or some such nice motherly name, and some continue to believe that Government can be cleansed of its corruption, can rein in the power of Money and bring some kind of justice and peace to the world. And for some, Money will solve everything, it just needs to be applied in the right places. Never mind that these ideas have never worked. Never mind that it’s impossible to rid any Power of its internal rot. Logic and common sense do not rule here: faith, hope and love do. And there are only three possible choices that people as collectives can pick from: Religion, Government or Money. The Power Pizza has three slices. These may vary in size but there is, and can only be, but three slices. And, according to the status quo (which public education reinforces so everybody will believe this) nothing of consequence exists outside the outer circumference of the Power Pizza.
Behold your gods, O Earth!
“The full humanization of man requires the breakthrough from the possession-centered to the activity-centered orientation, from selfishness and egotism to solidarity and altruism.”
March 27, 2016
A pioneer of what he called “radical-humanistic psychoanalysis,” the great German social psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) was one of the most luminous minds of the twentieth century and a fountain of salve for the most abiding struggles of being human.
In the mid-1970s, twenty years after his influential treatise on the art of loving and four decades after legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead turned to him for difficult advice, Fromm became interested in the most basic, most challenging art of human life — the art of being. At the height of a new era that had begun prioritizing products over people and consumption over creativity, Fromm penned a short, potent book titled To Have or To Be? — an inquiry into how the great promise of progress, seeded by the Industrial Revolution, failed us in our most elemental search for meaning and well-being. But the question proved far too complex to tackle in a single volume, so Fromm left out a significant portion of his manuscript.
Those pages, in many ways even richer and more insightful than the original book, were later published as The Art of Being (public library) — a sort of field guide, all the timelier today, to how we can shift from the having mode of existence, which is systematically syphoning our happiness, to a being mode.
Fromm frames the inquiry:
The full humanization of man requires the breakthrough from the possession-centered to the activity-centered orientation, from selfishness and egotism to solidarity and altruism.
But any effort to outline the steps of this breakthrough, Fromm cautions, must begin with the foundational question of what the goal of living is — that is, what we consider the meaning of life to be, beyond its biological purpose. He writes:
It seems that nature — or if you will, the process of evolution — has endowed every living being with the wish to live, and whatever he believes to be his reasons are only secondary thoughts by which he rationalizes this biologically given impulse.
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 (and they are more or less identical) to which people will give many different answers. Some will say they want love, others will choose power, others security, others sensuous pleasure and comfort, others fame; but most would probably agree in the statement that what they want is happiness. This is also what most philosophers and theologians have declared to be the aim of human striving. However, if happiness covers such different, and mostly mutually exclusive, contents as the ones just mentioned, it becomes an abstraction and thus rather useless. What matters is to examine what the term “happiness” means…
Most definitions of happiness, Fromm observes, converge at some version of having our needs met and our wishes fulfilled — but this raises the question of what it is we actually want. (As Milan Kundera memorably wrote, “we can never know what to want.”) It’s essentially a question about human nature — or, rather, about the interplay of nature and nurture mediated by norms. Adding to the vocabulary of gardening as a metaphor for understanding happiness and making sense of mastery, Fromm illustrates his point:
This is indeed well understood by any gardener. The aim of the life of a rosebush is to be all that is inherent as potentiality in the rosebush: that its leaves are well developed and that its flower is the most perfect rose that can grow out of this seed. The gardener knows, then, in order to reach this aim he must follow certain norms that have been empirically found. The rosebush needs a specific kind of soil, of moisture, of temperature, of sun and shade. It is up to the gardener to provide these things if he wants to have beautiful roses. But even without his help the rosebush tries to provide itself with the optimum of needs. It can do nothing about moisture and soil, but it can do something about sun and temperature by growing “crooked,” in the direction of the sun, provided there is such an opportunity. Why would not the same hold true for the human species?
Even if we had no theoretical knowledge about the reasons for the norms that are conducive to man’s optimal growth and functioning, experience tells us just as much as it tells the gardener. Therein lies the reason that all great teachers of man have arrived at essentially the same norms for living, the essence of these norms being that the overcoming of greed, illusions, and hate, and the attainment of love and compassion, are the conditions for attaining optimal being. Drawing conclusions from empirical evidence, even if we cannot explain the evidence theoretically, is a perfectly sound and by no means “unscientific” method, although the scientists’ ideal will remain, to discover the laws behind the empirical evidence.
He distills the basic principle of life’s ultimate aim:
The goal of living [is] to grow optimally according to the conditions of human existence and thus to become fully what one potentially is; to let reason or experience guide us to the understanding of what norms are conducive to well-being, given the nature of man that reason enables us to understand.
But one of the essential ingredients of well-being, Fromm notes, has been gruesomely warped by capitalist industrial society — the idea of freedom and its attainment by the individual:
Liberation has been exclusively applied to liberation from outside forces; by the middle class from feudalism, by the working class from capitalism, by the peoples in Africa and Asia from imperialism.
Such external liberation, Fromm argues, is essentially political liberation — an inherently limiting pseudo-liberation, which can obscure the emergence of various forms of imprisonment and entrapment within the political system. He writes:
This is the case in Western democracy, where political liberation hides the fact of dependency in many disguises… Man can be a slave even without being put in chains… The outer chains have simply been put inside of man. The desires and thoughts that the suggestion apparatus of society fills him with, chain him more thoroughly than outer chains. This is so because man can at least be aware of outer chains but be unaware of inner chains, carrying them with the illusion that he is free. He can try to overthrow the outer chains, but how can he rid himself of chains of whose existence he is unaware?
Any attempt to overcome the possibly fatal crisis of the industrialized part of the world, and perhaps of the human race, must begin with the understanding of the nature of both outer and inner chains; it must be based on the liberation of man in the classic, humanist sense as well as in the modern, political and social sense… The only realistic aim is total liberation, a goal that may well be called radical (or revolutionary) humanism.
The two most pernicious chains keeping us from liberation, Fromm observes, are our culture’s property-driven materialism and our individual intrinsic tendencies toward narcissism. He writes:
If “well-being” — [defined as] functioning well as a person, not as an instrument — is the supreme goal of one’s efforts, two specific ways stand out that lead to the attainment of this goal: Breaking through one’s narcissism and breaking through the property structure of one’s existence.
He offers the crispest definition of narcissism I’ve encountered (something that took Kafka a 47-page letter to articulate):
Narcissism is an orientation in which all one’s interest and passion are directed to one’s own person: one’s body, mind, feelings, interests… For the narcissistic person, only he and what concerns him are fully real; what is outside, what concerns others, is real only in a superficial sense of perception; that is to say, it is real for one’s senses and for one’s intellect. But it is not real in a deeper sense, for our feeling or understanding. He is, in fact, aware only of what is outside, inasmuch as it affects him. Hence, he has no love, no compassion, no rational, objective judgment. The narcissistic person has built an invisible wall around himself. He is everything, the world is nothing. Or rather: He is the world.
But because narcissism can come in many guises, Fromm cautions, it can be particularly challenging to detect in oneself in order to then eradicate — and yet without doing so, “the further way to self-completion is blocked.”
A parallel peril to well-being comes from the egotism and selfishness seeded by our ownership-driven society, a culture that prioritizes having over being by making property its primary mode of existence. Fromm writes:
A person living in this mode is not necessarily very narcissistic. He may have broken through the shell of his narcissism, have an adequate appreciation of reality outside himself, not necessarily be “in love with himself”; he knows who he is and who the others are, and can well distinguish between subjective experience and reality. Nevertheless, he wants everything for himself; has no pleasure in giving, in sharing, in solidarity, in cooperation, in love. He is a closed fortress, suspicious of others, eager to take and most reluctant to give.
Growth, he argues, requires a dual breakthrough — of narcissism and of property-driven existence. Although the first steps toward this breaking from bondage are bound to be anxiety-producing, this initial discomfort is but a paltry price for the larger rewards of well-being awaiting us on the other side of the trying transformation:
If a person has the will and the determination to loosen the bars of his prison of narcissism and selfishness, when he has the courage to tolerate the intermittent anxiety, he experiences the first glimpses of joy and strength that he sometimes attains. And only then a decisive new factor enters into the dynamics of the process. This new experience becomes the decisive motivation for going ahead and following the path he has charted… [An] experience of well-being — fleeting and small as it may be — … becomes the most powerful motivation for further progress…
Awareness, will, practice, tolerance of fear and of new experience, they are all necessary if transformation of the individual is to succeed. At a certain point the energy and direction of inner forces have changed to the point where an individual’s sense of identity has changed, too. In the property mode of existence the motto is: “I am what I have.” After the breakthrough it is “I am what I do” (in the sense of unalienated activity); or simply, “I am what I am.”
In the remainder of The Art of Being, Fromm explores the subtleties and practicalities of enacting this transformation. Complement it with legendary social scientist John W. Gardner, a contemporary of Fromm’s, on the art of self-renewal, then revisit Fromm’s abiding wisdom on what is keeping us from mastering the art of love.