In 2012 I was in Bogota, walking in the old city, I stopped by an old man selling books in the street. I had recently read Erich Fromm ‘The Art of Loving’ and it had had a huge impact on me and on the way I see my life (and still has). Looking through the books on that stand, I saw Erich Fromm ‘El Miedo de la Libertad’ (The Fear of Freedom) in a very worn down version. I bought it and carried it in my backpack for the next two years without reading it.
Some days ago I sat down and started reading it. As I expected Erich Fromm’s thoughts really impress me again.
At the end of the first chapter, he summarizes the theme he’s treating:
This discussion will always be centred around the main theme of this book: that man, the more he gains freedom in the sense of emerging from the original oneness with man and nature and the more he becomes an “individual”, has no choice but to unite himself with the world in the spontaneity of love and productive work or else to seek a kind of security by such ties with the world as destroy his freedom and die integrity of his individual self.
This quote struck me. As I understand it, the more humankind and the individual emerges from their primitive (as in primary, not as in stupid) state of connection and becomes an in-dividual, gains freedom and maturity, the more we can choose to be in a genuine connection through love and creative (as in creation) work.
In order to connect, we need to disconnect. In order to come back, we need to leave. In order to love, we need to … hate? fear? disconnect?
It’s very much a choice as I see it. We grow up, we live in this environment that feels entirely ‘normal’. We have some urge to learn, curiosity, to go out – but it’s relatively easy to ignore and go on as it’s ‘normal’.
And then, there’s the choice to walk out. Not to leave actually, but to really be there.
Walking out means to search freedom. To break with your family, society, norms. Go crazy in one or some of its many ways. Leave paradise, because it’s not boring perfection that we’re searching, but life, chaos.
When we reach the age of puberty, our psyche calls for just this. Break with what has been, go out, try a new way.
Later, many young people, at least in northern Europe, leave home and go out, travel, see the world. Another way to break with home. Note, by break, I don’t mean an aggressive breaking, but disconnecting my identity with my ‘nest’ and expanding it.
In many indigenous cultures, this going out is an essential part of becoming part of the community, in the form of a vision quest. Young people walk out, spend time in nature alone, fasting, meditating. Symbolically or really facing the dark, the forest, the dangers of the outside world. Emerging from their time alone, coming back to the community with their personal gifts and being re-introduced as a full member of the community, not a child anymore. Often they would get new names as well.
In the european society we hardly ever go through this process of emerging from who we were to who we might be. We might fight and struggle with the influence of parents and school, we might run away and travel – but hardly ever do we really become mature individuals in this process.
Mature, free, developed, concious, able to love and create, relating to others out of choice.
What is it that we need to learn to become this? Become ourselves, more than ‘this’?
My 2 cents:
Presence (my guide: Eckart Tolle)
Love (my guide: Don Miguel Ruiz, Erich Fromm)
Emotional Freedom (my guide: Marshall Rosenberg)