On Fromm’s Theory Of Love

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone…”

These lyrics are as relevant now as when written by Hal David in the turbulent ’60s. At the time our society was consumed with consumerism, in danger of nuclear war, embroiled in the effects of racial tension, and was struggling with the safety and health effects of pollution and environmental irresponsibility. Generally speaking, world issues then were the same as they are today.

These four brief lyrics address a basic conflict between capitalism and the concept of love. They likewise reference the scope of love, which I would suggest is inherent to the concept itself. For love as I comprehend the concept is an objective care and concern for the well being of others. The ideal of objective concern is negated if the sentiment and the evident exercise thereof is either partial or less than universal as perceived or practiced. Hence, whatever love may be, it should be “not just for some but for everyone.”

In his 1956 masterpiece “The Art Of Loving”, German-American sociologist and psychologist Erich Fromm identified four basic elements which are fundamental to the very concept of love. For while discussing the theory of love therein Fromm referenced care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge as the basic elements which are common to all forms of love. Among the examples of such were the natural maternal care for a child, and the habitual tending to vegetation and plants of the horticulturist and the home gardener. Conversely, Fromm utilized the biblical tale of Jonah as an example of one whose lack of objectivity serves as an example of a failure to love. For although best known as the biblical character who is alleged to have spent three nights in the whale’s belly, Jonah actually serves as a great example of a bad example with regards to social relations.

As the tale goes, Jonah was commanded by God to go to the city of Ninevah and preach the message of repentance to the inhabitants there. Instead he boarded a ship headed the opposite direction. He did so because he did not want the Assyrians to repent, for the simple reason that he did not want them to be spared from the wrath of God. When a fierce storm endangered the ship due to Jonah’s disobedience, Jonah was voluntarily thrown overboard in order to spare the crew. It was at this time that he was allegedly swallowed by a great fish, where he remained for three days until the fish spat him out. Predictably enough, Jonah then went to Ninevah where he successfully persuaded the people of Ninevah to repent of their alleged wrong doings. Oddly enough, Jonah was angry that the people responded positively to his message. Jonah was so hung up on the concepts of justice and punishment that he merely could not rejoice in the well being of the Assyrian people.

Fromm rightly observes that though Jonah was a man of law and order, that he was deficient with regards to the concept of love. This is evidenced by his prejudiced attitude and partial perspective towards the Assyrians. Jonah did not maintain an objective concern for the well being of the inhabitants of Ninevah. Thus Jonah did not love the Assyrian people.

Fromm furthermore notes that by not taking responsibility for the well being of the Ninevites when the opportunity originally availed itself that Jonah had already manifested his deficiency with regards to the concept of love. In other words, when Jonah disobeyed God’s directive he revealed a lack of willingness to be responsible for the well being of the Assyrian people. And according to Fromm, one of the basic qualities of love is to be ready and willing to respond to the needs of others as per circumstantial situations.

To feel a sense of responsibility for the well being of all people then is to love objectively. And an objective care and concern for the well being of others is manifested when people respond actively to the needs of others. Jonah’s refusal to respond to the needs of the people of Ninevah then revealed his lack of objective concern for the well being of the Assyrian people. Hence, the tale of Jonah serves as a prime example of one who was deficient as to the concept of love.

A third element of love as noted by Fromm is respect. Respect being a consistent recognition that each person has rights, feelings, and needs which are unique to that particular individual. Though such qualities are unique to the individual person, objective recognition of such as innate qualities shared by everyone is the basis for having respect for others. In essence, respect entails recognizing and supporting any given individual person as an autonomous being who has the right to freedom and liberty, so long as the exercise thereof does not disrespect another.

Fromm notes that respect then naturally means a lack of exploitation. Liberty which in practice exploits another actually disrespects that individual as a means to an end. A mere commodity. A tool for one’s use rather than as a person with dignity and feelings. The exploitation of another is to disregard that person’s humanity. Exploitation then is to transparently disrespect another individual, which evidently demonstrates a deficiency with regards to the concept of love.

The fourth element of love as noted by Fromm is knowledge. By knowledge he seems to mean an insight into the psyche of human needs and feelings. An understanding of what makes a person tick, what moves us to feel, the inner angst which covets acceptance. An understanding then of humanity which is based on empathy and which is experienced through an empathetic union with others. A soul fusion and a mind meld of sorts.

This empathetic union with others is of course a more natural experience with our familiars than with strangers. Yet the principles translate to people with whom we are not acquainted, or to individuals who we do not even realize exist. When one’s empathy for humanity is consistently objective, then care and concern for the well being of each and every living person becomes a natural element of that person’s worldview. A subsequently sincere respect for people as people then motivates us to respond to the needs of others out of a sense of responsibility for the general welfare for all humanity. In essence, Fromm’s theory of love was that the concept itself is founded upon an empathetic understanding of the needs of the human being, motivated by a sincere care and concern for the well being of all, and is manifested by a sincere response to those needs out of respect for people in general.

In this day and age of endless wars, nuclear madness, climate catastrophes, rampant racism, conditioned consumerism, intoxicated illusions of self importance; and in a culture whose economic system is sustained and maintained by exploitation and domination; Fromm’s theory of empathetic love would serve as an antidote for a world plagued with apathy and disregard for human welfare.

What the world needs now is love sweet love.
It is truly the one thing that there is just too little of.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

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A Synthesis of Spirits

A synthesis of spirits,

When two people fall in love.

And choose to stay together,

As a pair of mating doves.

 

A synthesis of spirits,

When two people’s lives entwine.

And the interests of the other,

Become as those of mine.

 

A synthesis of spirits,

May be legalized on paper.

But to do otherwise,

Is certainly no caper.

 

A synthesis of spirits,

Of those of different races.

Matters not one whit,

To those with smiling faces.

 

A synthesis of spirits,

Of those of common gender.

Is a natural way of life,

For those who love so tender.

 

A synthesis of spirits,

When two people fall in love.

And choose to stay together,

As a pair of mating doves.

 

A synthesis of spirits,

When two people’s lives entwine.

And the interests of the other,

Becomes as those of mine.

 

Keepers of the Flame

I believe that we are keepers of the flame.

 

It seems to me that there lies within each of us a spark of goodness which glows ever so calmly as a light of love, and  which helps us to see the way clearly when we are guided by our natural sense of kindness and compassion.  The milk of human kindness is thus warmed from within to a degree desirable to self and satisfactory to the palate of all peoples ….

 

It seems to me that there lies within each of us a flame of potential fury and frustration which can all too easily get out of control and become a wicked wildfire, when we give in to egotism and anger.  The milk then turns sour from overexposure to the undesirable elements of the negative side of our thinking, and becomes distasteful to self and dissatisfactory to one and all….

 

I do not know “who” put the flame within me.  Nor “how” that flame came to be.

 

I only know that I; and I alone, am the keeper of my flame.

 

For it is I; and I alone, who must ignite that spark of goodness within my own self; if indeed I am to be the good person that I want to be.

 

And it is I; and I alone, who must extinguish the wildfire of hostility and hatred which can all too easily and all too often arise from within the negative side of me.


Indeed, I am the keeper of my flame.

Remembering Jimmy Porter

 

What you are about to read is a brief story of a man whose life and influence upon those who knew him personally is beyond measure.  Jimmy Porter was not a celebrity, but in my opinion the memory of such a man should be celebrated and cherished for as long as those who knew him personally are still here to recollect his life and his deeds.

As you are about to read, the name “Jimmy Porter” lives on in my hometown of Carrollton, Texas in the way of a City Park and an annual Civic Award.  I applaud the leaders of Carrollton for continuing to honor him so.  At the same time, I acknowledge and admit that so much time has elapsed since his death (we lost Jimmy 30 years ago this coming December) that the number of those who knew the man, and I mean really KNEW the man is surely dwindling.

Which is one of the reasons I repost this article (which I have slightly modified this year) every February on my blog and on my Facebook page.  But it is more than that.  Much more than that. Unfortunately I don’t know that the words exist which can adequately express my deepest felt reasons for wanting people to read of the life of Jimmy Porter and to recollect his deeds. I guess it is simply this:

Jimmy Porter was one of the finest human beings that I personally have ever met.  He personified in “living color” (no pun intended) what it is be HUMAN.  To socialize, to relate to his fellow human being, to love, to care, to enjoy life even though he lived in poverty, to care, to care…. I mean to really, truly care about his fellow human being.

In my opinion, Jimmy Porter lived THE SPIRIT of humanity.

The attached picture, taken by a fellow Carrollton resident Kerry Carloy (Texfstop), is in my judgment one of the most real to life photos which so vividly represent Jimmy Porter.  He is pictured here in 1982 wearing a St Louis cap (fitting; as he played baseball in St Louis in the 1920’s), worn blue jeans, and his stereotypical easy going, friendly smile.  Thank you Kerry for capturing this image of this wonderful man a mere two years before he passed away:

Jimmy Porter

And so as I prepare to share again “The Story of Jimmy Porter”,  I simply want everyone to know as you read these words, that you are reading a brief description of a man who REALLY knew what life was truly about.  And lived it.

And so in honor of Black History Month, and in memory of an old friend; I once again share “The Story of Jimmy Porter”:

Approximately a mile South of the George Bush Tollway in Carrollton, Texas; immediately south of the railroad tracks as they cross Josey Lane, there is a City Park where young girls and boys play Little League Baseball and where families entertain their children on pleasant weekend afternoons.  This certain park has been a source of such leisure for over 40 years.

Near the Concession Stand, a plaque records a brief history of the establishment of the park and features an engraved image of its namesake. The bronze image has faded with time, in fact the smiling face is barely visible. Albeit the engraved image has faded, the image of Jimmy Porter is indelibly stamped within the memory of every person who grew up in Carrollton, Texas during the mid to latter 1900′s. When I stand before that fading bronze image of an elderly black man wearing a baseball cap, my mind drifts back to a time when there was no such place as the “Jimmy Porter Park”. I recollect a time when an elderly black man, wearing dirty blue jeans and a faded work shirt, soaked with sweat, would be seen walking down Perry Road carrying several wooden baseball bats upon his shoulder, headed in the direction of the baseball backstop of Carrollton Elementary. On his balding head was any one of several stained baseball caps, and attached to his bats were several old baseball gloves. At his side, he carried a bag of well worn but still useful baseballs.  His slow but steady gait was that of a man who was intent on a mission. For Jimmy Porter; whose daily duties when I knew him consisted of mowing lawns and doing general labor, everyday was a quest. For whenever this elderly black gentleman was seen walking with bats over shoulders in the direction of town; everyone knew that Jimmy Porter was ready…. for that next “pick up” baseball game….

It was the Summer of 1969.  Nixon was in the White House, the Soldiers were in Vietnam, the Hippies were at Woodstock, Neil Armstrong was on the moon, and Major League Baseball was celebrating its 100th birthday.  I recollect somewhat of those national events, but frankly I did not care.  I was a typical 8 year old who was just glad to be out of school for Summer Break!

It was the Summer of 1969 when I first met Jimmy Porter.  At that time, he was just the nice old black man who played ball with all we locals at the backstop of Carrollton Elementary.  Although he was not there every day, when he was there all the neighborhood kids would congregate like parishioners at church for our religious practice of  “pick up” baseball with this old black man who we simply called “Jimmy”.  (A few years later I learned that Jimmy operated somwhat of a “circuit” in order to accommodate us all.  Some days he was at the backstop of Central Elementary to play ball with the kids in south Carrollton and north Farmers Branch.  Other days he was at the backstop of Good Elementary to play ball with the children of North Carrollton.  And then there were the days that he was at the backstop of Carrollton Elementary, which was just down the street from where I lived).

Little did I realize at that time just how influential this man would prove to be in my life.  Nor could I even perceive of the influence that he would have on the lives of all the children of my hometown.  Most of all, I simply had no concept in the Summer of 1969 of the history of the nice old black man that we kids simply called “Jimmy”…..

Jimmy Porter came to Carrollton in the 1920′s after a brief career as a Negro League baseball player in St. Louis. Jimmy; who had been born in Tennessee in1900, arrived in town unemployed and uneducated. In consideration of the times; he seemed destined for a life of poverty and obscurity. Although Jimmy was poor;he was anything but obscure. Jimmy Porter would become the best known and most loved man in Carrollton, Texas! He lead parades; was the namesake of the aforementioned Jimmy Porter Park; appeared on television, and even received a house from local businessmen before his days were done! The account of the events which lead this young, unemployed black man to be honored as Carrollton’s most celebrated personality is the story of Jimmy Porter….

Shortly after his arrival in the 1920’s, Jimmy formed a black semipro baseball team known as The Carrollton Cats. He played for the Cats for several years, until they eventually disbanded. Yet he continued to promote the game he loved so dearly. In fact; eventually Jimmy helped to influence city leaders to found, and was himself a coach in the Carrollton Little League. Even after his “official” coaching days ended, he continued to teach children the game of baseball by way of informal“pick up” games. EVERYONE was welcome to play baseball with Jimmy Porter! Boys and girls of all ages would participate in the grand ole game under the supervision of this kindly old gentleman. The games were casual. Jimmy selected the teams; and he always made sure the youngest and the smallest got to bat first. He even provided the equipment. The wooden bats usually had nails driven through the barrel due to cracks; the baseballs were worn; and most his gloves were left-handed; but everyone was welcome to use his supplies. Jimmy usually did all the pitching; and he definitely did all the umping.  At the end of the game; every child left with a hug from the kindly old man.

Jimmy was a role model to the children who idolized him. He had a gift for making every child, regardless of skill or lack of athleticism, feel special. As time went by, the children who adored him grew to become the citizens of the city he had embraced so many years before. Every year; he rode in the front of the firetruck that lead the Opening Day ceremonies of the Carrollton Little League. He grinned and waved as he tossed candy to the children who ran down the street yelling his name. His attendance at any Little League game was an honor for the children, and obviously was a joy to the aging Jimmy. He was always allowed a select seat directly behind homeplate, and was well known during the games to verbally encourage each batter. Whenever a player got a hit; Jimmy would wave his cap and holler in approval. Just as he had done in his “pick up”games; Jimmy made each child feel like the star of the game.

In time, Jimmy became the most celebrated citizen in town. In 1973 Jimmy Porter Park was constructed and dedicated in his honor. The monument with his picture (now badly faded) was erected there in 1975. Furthermore, a beautiful oil painting of Jimmy was displayed in the Carrollton Community Center. In 1977; Jimmy, who had no children of his own, was awarded a lifetime membership by the Texas PTA. Furthermore, Jimmy appeared as a guest on the Today Show in 1982. As his health declined, several local citizens; many of whom had grown up playing baseball with Jimmy; had a one bedroom house built for the elderly Porter. Jimmy, who at one time had lived in an abandoned railroad car on the North edge of town, moved into his new home in 1983. He lived there for the brief duration of his life.

Jimmy Porter died on December 11, 1984. His modest gravestone features 2 baseball bats crossed at the barrel. Every year the city of Carrollton presents a citizen who excels in community service with The Jimmy Porter Award. Those who actually knew the man remember his passion for baseball and life; and his compassion for one and all. Such was the life of Jimmy Porter….

Jimmy Porter; b Sept 2, 1900 (Tennessee)

d Dec 11, 1984 (Texas)

I dont get back to Carrollton much these days. But when I do, I make the effort to visit the grave of my old friend. His final resting place is but a few steps from Perry Road, where I often saw him walking, bats over his shoulder, heading towards the backstop of the playground of Carrollton Elementary…. on a quest for that next “pick up” baseball game…

(My thanks again to Kerry Carloy for the delightful photo of our beloved Jimmy Porter: https://www.flickr.com/people/texfstop/)

 

A Choice to Make

The distinction between me and the indifferent Universe in which I exist is quite simply this:

The Universe is indifferent to the suffering of others by its nature.  The Universe quite frankly has no choice in the matter, for the Universe by its nature, lacks the capacity to care about anyone or anything.

I, on the other hand, have a choice in the matter.

Hence, when I am indifferent to the suffering of others, my indifference and lack of sensitivity is a matter of personal choice.

The choice as to whether to care or not is mine to make.

If I am indifferent to the suffering of others, and insensitive to their plight, I have no one to blame but myself.

Limits of Control

There are many things in this crazy life which I cannot control.

The reality of how little control I actually have is somewhat humbling, and perhaps at times frightening.

I cannot control my mortality.  It is what it is, I am a finite being.  I will die one day.  That reality is at times frightening.

I cannot control how vulnerable I am to pain and suffering.  It is what it is.  I am a vulnerable being.  Vulnerable to an entire host of means of pain and suffering.  That reality is at times frightening.

It seems that the only aspect of this crazy life which I can actually control is me.  And sometimes I seem to be beyond my own reach.

Yet it does seem reasonable to accept the reality that I am seemingly the artisan of my own character.  At least in terms of mood and manner.

Kindness and compassion are qualities of character which seem to always be available and attainable.  I do not always choose to exercise such, yet that is a matter of choice.  I cannot claim kindness and compassion to be beyond my control.

At least there is that much that I can control in this crazy life. 

Robert Ping

It was warm that Summer morning,

In June of 2009.

The date was the 24th

When I lost a good friend of mine.

Robert Ping was his name,

And he was many things to me.

But on that very day,

He died a servant of humanity.

Compelled by neither pledge nor oath,

When he responded to natural duty.

Robert died a hero’s death,

Due to goodness and inner beauty.

I don’t know what I would have done,

Had I been in Robert’s place.

But I know what Robert did,

When he met Death face to face.

Robert chose to get involved,

When he happened across a car accident.

Robert’s choice to get involved,

Proved to be his final incident.

For as Robert was in the road,

Rendering aid to a lady who had been hurt.

He was run over from behind,

The curtain fell abruptly on his life’s concert.

It has been several years now,

Since the day he passed away.

But I always think of Robert Ping,

On this particular day.

—————————————————————————————————-

(In honour and memory of Robert Ping,

Born:   April 2,1969

Died:  June 24, 2009

So long my friend….)