This post is inspired by one of the best books about love – Erich Fromm’s bestseller “The Art of Loving” written in 1956. I want to apologize in advance that it will be less related to the central topic of my blog – Chinese girls. But it should resonate with people who are willing to learn the art of loving.
The last sentence might confuse some of the readers. Is there anything to learn about loving? And is love an art? Exactly this question opens the book. The author unequivocally proves that loving is an art which can be learned and practiced.
There is a paradox: on one hand we are starving for love and are ready to do everything in order to dive into the pleasant sensations it promises. On another hand majority of people fail time after time, go through a series of heartbreaking experiences, and eventually give up to find true LOVE which would comprise both passion and commitment.
They watch endless numbers of films about happy and unhappy love stories, they listen to hundreds of trashy songs about love – yet hardly anyone thinks that there is anything that needs to be learned about love.
According to Fromm people wrongly suppose that the main problem is to find someone who will love us. “Give me someone who will love me, and I will love him/her back”. Because of such mindset – when people try to be loved instead of loving – the mostly utilized way to succeed is to make ourselves lovable. Women do it by making themselves prettier and more sexually appealing. Men achieve it by gaining more social power or earning more money (or reading Crystal Tao’s dating advises :-) ).
Another problem is dictated by the consumerist approach of modern society (even though the book was written more than 50 years ago – little has changed since then). Lifetime partners are just another kind of commodity and as in any other market a good bargain is the result of mutually favorable exchange.
Modern man’s happiness consists in the thrill of looking at the shop windows, and in buying all that he can afford to buy <…> He (or she) looks at people in a similar way. For the man an attractive girl – and for the woman an attractive man – are the prizes they are after. “Attractive” usually means a nice package of qualities which are popular <…> The sense of falling in love develops usually only with regard to such human commodities as are within reach of one’s own possibilities of exchange.
But even if we accept the rules of this game, deep inside most of us don’t want to be just the goods in the market (even if this is love market). Thus, let me spare you from the further overview of Fromm’s theory and turn to its practical implications.
Last chapter of the book is titled “The Practice of Love”. In it Erich Fromm introduced eight premises which in his opinion are vital to the art of loving. The person who practices them as skills has a chance to become the master of this art. But before I name these premises let me quote the warning voiced by the author himself.
To love is a personal experience which everyone can only have by and for himself <…> The steps toward the goal can be practiced only by oneself, and discussion ends before the decisive step is taken.
So let’s have a look at the prerequisites of the art of loving. First four of them are the universal premises for any kind of art.
1) Discipline. This is the first general requirement and it means doing things in the organized way. Not only the person has to be organized when it comes to that specific activity that he is interested in – discipline must embrace his whole life. Why are we able to follow certain rules when we are forced from outside (for example, at work), but in free time – once we are bosses of ourselves – we lack any responsibility and just want to relax, throwing our tired bodies to sofa and switching on TV. Why don’t we spend a quality time with our beloved and have an interesting conversation instead? Or finish together the housework and go out for a walk?
Let me give you an example of my relationship with boyfriend from the time when we lived in different countries. We had a time difference of 5 or 6 hours (depending on time of the year). Every morning he was getting up one hour earlier so that we could have MSN chat (during my lunch break). And every single day we were exchanging e-mails. I was writing to him before going to sleep and he was reading my mail after coming back from work. Then he was writing the reply which I was reading in the morning. And every weekend we had a longer video-chat. Sticking to such schedule requires some discipline and many of the readers had a similar experience.
So – isn’t it natural to spend even more quality time together once the distance barrier is broken?
2) Concentration. There is little need to prove that high level of concentration is the necessary skill to achieve mastery in any kind of art. And it is even rarer than discipline.
Our culture leads to an unconcentrated and diffused mode of life <…> You do many things at once: you read, listen to the radio, talk, smoke, eat, drink. You are the consumer with the open mouth, eager and ready to swallow everything – pictures, liquor, knowledge.
Take a look at how cleverly the online dating industry exploits our consumerist nature. The whole interface of dating sites is designed to create an anonymous environment for pleasant consuming of as many stimuli in parallel as possible. You log in to your profile and the “clicking” game starts.
First let’s create the search criteria… aha, let’s limit the girls’ weight to XXX. Click… click… Hmm… this one is ugly, this one I already tried to contact yesterday, aha – this one is not bad – let’s save her into “favorites” folder. Click… click… no picture? Shit! Have to change the search options and exclude those without pictures. Okay, what do we have here? Umm, not bad, not bad – let’s wink / send smile / send interest… Click… click… oh – tasty one and she is online! … Starting live chat… (“Hi. How are you? What are you doing?”) Wow, here is another one… starting another live chat. (“Hi. How are you? What are you doing?”) Click… click…
But why am I taking the extreme examples of online dating? How often do we really concentrate on what we are doing at the current moment? Having a meaningful conversation while looking into the partner’s eyes? Listening and hearing what the other says; and really meaning what we are saying? Without thinking at the same time about the bills you forgot to pay, work you haven’t finished or just waiting impatiently for the moment when she stops talking.
3) Patience. And again the modern society stimulates the opposite qualities. Everything that we want to consume – we want it here and we want it now. The new machine is better if it can perform the same job quicker that the older model. But does it make us happier? On the contrary – we become even more impatient.
Modern man thinks he loses something – time – when he does not do things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains – except kill it.
Sometimes I can’t understand how people communicated with their beloved ones in the past (without the help of e-mails, instant messengers and telephones). Why wasting time on courtship when there is such thing as online dating or even speed dating? And why would man wait until girl decides whether she is ready for intimacy? Instead he can find another one and have sex after the second date.
It’s appropriate to mention the comment left by @NorthEuropean to the post about Chinabounder:
The number one thing I often read the Chinese girls jump too quickly into bed (yes, even the ChinaBounder like of guys admit it OPENLY on many China expat forums!!), I would say to those Chinese girls who are out for a serious and lasting relationship with a foreign man she should wait SEVERAL weeks at least before having intercourse, that will put off most impatient players.
4) Supreme concern is the fourth premise which is common to all kind of activities that a person wants to practice and develop to the state of art. Lack of concern (which is sincere and deep interest in the subject) is the key difference between amateurs and masters.
Before proceeding to the next four premises that are specific to the art of loving – it’s necessary to note that in the beginning any kind of art is learned through a set of seemingly unrelated activities which help the apprentice to reach the necessary state of mind.
This is also true for the “apprentices” of love who must incorporate discipline, concentration and patience into their life (I assume that supreme concern – strong desire to love – is already there).
There are different kinds of activities which can help people to practice these skills.
For example, patiently waiting for the second part of this post ;-)
Apprentice Crystal Tao