Leon M's Reviews > The Art of Being

The Art of Being by Erich Fromm
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M 50x66
's review
Jun 22, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fromm
Read in June, 2010

In "The Art of Being", Fromm tries to give practical support to all of his readers who want to move from narcisstic selfishness and egotism to happiness and well-being. This is (probably meant as) a sequel to his larger and more well-known "To Have or To Be", adding ideas and practices for self-improvement to his psychological analysis of the having and being mode in our society.

Unlike other writers, Fromm is very concrete in his writing:: Learn to be awake, to be aware to concentrate, to meditate. How? Just sit down ten minutes every morning and do nothing but trying to be aware. Soon you will learn to do this every time when you are waiting, just listening to your breath or being aware of your senses, not trying to change anything. Fromm could have been even more practically-oriented, however, but he refers to other books like "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation" and advises the reader to read them for further, more lengthy information on the subject.

Following the description of how to become aware, Fromm urges the reader to try self-analysis and gives some concrete methods which the inclined reader may try. In my opinion he is a bit harsh on the reader there, urging him to "become aware of our sadism, when we believe that we want to do to others only what is good for them" (p. 76): My problem with his description is not that he mentions the bad factors in everyone of us - because surely they are there even if we don't realize they play an important role in our decision-making - my problem is that he focuses on them, discouraging the reader when he could have focused on the good in everyone of us, encouraging the reader and making for a far more optimistic and heart-warming book. Probably, the experiences of his life didn't allow for this optimism.

At least, Fromm adds that although he recommends self analysis, "that this recommendation does not imply that is is a necessary step that everybody should take. It is one which appeals to me" (p. 82). This is very important for me, because in his examples of self-analysis, Fromm draws heavily on theories of Freud that although adapted to modern times still smell like they are a product of the scientist's imagination rather than observation and analysis: especially if you read "The Conscious Exploration of Dreaming" you will be inclined to feel quite differently about dream analysis.

All in all, this is one of Fromm's best books (though it obviously can't compete with his "To Have or To Be"): It is an appeal to all his readers to start their training in the art of being.

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