By Yael Tobón Uribe
I’ve found it is all too easy to blame capitalism for anything unpleasant that happens to me–stress, high prices, personal insecurities, depression and more. It wasn’t until I discovered BTS’ album “Love Yourself” (which is deeply influenced by “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm) that I realized I could also blame capitalism for the unrealistic perception many of us have about love. After further exploration, this little book became the pillar of my writing and self improvement, despite its bothersome heteronormative bent.
“Love is an art” as a phrase sounds romantic and corny at the same time. However, for me, it sparked an incandescent desire to write about love–but not in the way I was used to, where one person is clearly dependent on the other and both are deeply absorbed in infatuation. Instead, in a way in which loving is treated as an art. Fromm suggests that the good artist does not just create art when they feel like it, but devotes their existence to the mastery of their craft. As such, one shouldn’t just love when one feels like it or when it’s more convenient, but always. Discovering this notion marked a turning point for me as a writer. The way I approached writing shifted from “I’ll do it when I’m ready” to “I want to do it because I want to master this art”. It’s not surprising that the way I started writing about love after I read this book became much more intimate and personal.
Art requires discipline, patience, and faith in the process. Fromm suggests that art is the only thing that can cure the human existential emptiness. This simple yet powerful premise is echoed in one my favorite love songs:
I’m just a human, you erode all my edges and make me into love. I live so I love,
-Trivia: Love by BTS
I have found that what has helped me the most to stimulate my creativity is to spend a significant amount of time alone. Sometimes it can be triggering to be left alone with my thoughts, and this much reflection can drain my creative energy. Whenever it gets hard, I remember Fromm’s words, “Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love.” It took me a long time to feel how rewarding it can be to create art and give to others from a place of solitude, and to discover these two things can coexist in perfect balance.
So how does this all relate to capitalism? Fromm notices how most people see the problem with love to be whether or not they are being loved or are lovable, rather than inspecting one’s own capacity to love others. Many people cling to the notion that love is something one falls accidentally into. This idea is portrayed in thousands of “trashy” love songs––as Fromm describes them. I don’t have anything against these songs and actually enjoy them. Some examples from songs I like follow,
I’ve heard of a love that comes once in a lifetime and I’m pretty sure that you are that love of mine,
-Dandelions by Ruth B
If the sky falls from heaven above, I know I had the best time falling in love,
-Till Forever Falls Apart by Ashe & Finneas
Unfortunately, songs like these feed the assumption that love is something that exists outside and that it is waiting for us to find it. Love is another commodity objectified by capitalism, thanks to pop music.
Since love is intrinsic to human existence, the commodification of love has rendered us as human beings as nothing more than objects available in this “personality market”, in which relations are reduced to exchange value; one offers their best attributes only if what they receive in return is beneficial for them at that time. I found this idea closely portrayed in “Resistance” by Muse which is inspired by the classic, amazing, and genius dystopian fiction 1984 by George Orwell. He creates a fictional reality where love is reserved only for the Big Brother and human relations are reduced to reproduction. Muse claims that “Love is our resistance” to oppressive powers that try to reduce human existence to goods and services.
Even when “The Art of Loving” teaches us what is needed from us to master the art of love, it also mentions that by doing so we are inherently going against the dominating culture that is fed to us. Fromm seems discouraged by the fact that true love seems to be almost impossible to exist in a society that ultimately always succeeds in turning everything into commodities. This same society focuses on making us consume as much as we can and we do so in such grotesque quantities that in the end, the only thing that we are starved for is love.
In a society that invites us to consume, I feel privileged to be able to create a little bit of art with my writing which I hope can influence people to create art themselves. Of course, I am not better than anyone here and actually like to think of this life as an endless process of learning how to love. I have accepted that I cannot change the society I live in but I know that for as long as I can I will create my little resistance against it.
Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving. Edited by Ruth Nanda Anshen, [First edition] ed., Harper & Row, 1956.