Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The MMOB Daily Quote - Erich Fromm

Today we take a philosophical tact with birthday boy and notable quotable Erich Fromm.

One of the reasons I love pulling together these daily compilations of interesting quotes is that it forces me to extend myself and often learn about interesting people and thinkers, some of whom I know little or nothing about. While I'd heard passing references to Fromm over the years, he was always as a sidebar to the more traditional voices of Freud, Jung, Piaget or Maslow. So, for my own benefit, and now yours, here's the
biography on Erich Fromm pulled from a fine electronic textbook on Personality Theories created by Dr. C George Boeree. I recommend you look up the full text to get an even fuller accounting of this accomplished thinker.

Erich Fromm was born in 1900 in Frankfurt, Germany. His father was a business man and, according to Erich, rather moody. His mother was frequently depressed. In other words,... his childhood wasn't very happy.
Like Jung, Erich came from a very religious family, in his case orthodox Jews. Fromm himself later became what he called an atheistic mystic.
In his autobiography, Beyond the Chains of Illusion, Fromm talks about two events in his early adolescence that started him along his path. The first involved a friend of the family's:
Maybe she was 25 years of age; she was beautiful, attractive, and in addition a painter, the first painter I ever knew. I remember having heard that she had been engaged but after some time had broken the engagement; I remember that she was almost invariably in the company of her widowed father. As I remember him, he was an old, uninteresting, and rather unattractive man, or so I thought (maybe my judgment was somewhat biased by jealousy). Then one day I heard the shocking news: her father had died, and immediately afterwards, she had killed herself and left a will which stipulated that she wanted to be buried with her father.
As you can imagine, this news hit the 12 year old Erich hard, and he found himself asking what many of us might ask: why? Later, he began finding some answers -- partial ones, admittedly -- in Freud.
The second event was even larger: World War I. At the tender age of 14, he saw the extremes that nationalism could go to. All around him, he heard the message: We (Germans, or more precisely, Christian Germans) are great; They (the English and their allies) are cheap mercenaries. The hatred, the "war hysteria," frightened him, as well it should.
So again he wanted to understand something irrational -- the irrationality of mass behavior -- and he found some answers, this time in the writings of Karl Marx.
To finish Fromm's story, he received his PhD from Heidelberg in 1922 and began a career as a psychotherapist. He moved to the U.S. in 1934 -- a popular time for leaving Germany! -- and settled in New York City, where he met many of the other great refugee thinkers that gathered there, including Karen Horney, with whom he had an affair.
Toward the end of his career, he moved to Mexico City to teach. He had done considerable research into the relationship between economic class and personality types there. He died in 1980 in Switzerland.

I realize this is more than I usually reprint from others, but I thought you might like a little more detail as context for today's slate of quotes, which a pulled from

“There is only one meaning of life: the act of living itself.”

“Education makes machines which act like men and produces men who act like machines”

“To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness”

“Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.”

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”

“Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”

“Mother's love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.”

“Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others.”

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”

Cheers! - Jason

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