A concept can never adequately express the experience it refers to. It points to it, but it is not it. It is, as the Zen Buddhists say, “the finger that points to the moon”—it is not the moon. (p. 19)
Any progress in science, in political ideas, in religion and in philosophy tends to create ideologies which compete and fight with each other. Furthermore, this process is aided by the fact that as soon as the thought system becomes the nucleus of an organization, bureaucrats arise who, in order to keep power and control, wish to emphasize the differences rather than that which is shared, and who are therefore interested in making the fictitious additions as important, or more so, than the original fragments. Thus, philosophy, religion, political ideas, and sometimes even science are transformed into ideologies, controlled by the respective bureaucrats. (pp. 21-22)
The problem of good and evil arises only when there is imagination. Furthermore, man can become more evil and more good because he feeds his imagination with thoughts of either evil or good. What he feeds, grows; and hence, evil and good grow or decrease. They grow precisely because of that specifically human quality—imagination. (p. 161)
One might ask how man can make a choice between life and death; man is either alive or dead, and there is no choice, except if one were to consider the possibility of suicide. But what the biblical text refers to is not life and death as biological facts but as principles and values. To be alive is to grow, to develop, to respond; to be dead (even if one is alive biologically) means to stop growing, to fossilize, to become a thing. Many people never face the clear alternative between the values of life and those of death, and hence they live in neither world or they become “zombies,” their bodies being alive and their souls dead. To choose life is the necessary condition for love, freedom, and truth. (p. 181)
Erich Fromm — You Shall Be As Gods
Erich Fromm’s writings came into my life right when I was desperately seeking many answers for thousands of questions. His books are old—many written in the 50’s and 60’s—and his writing style takes some getting used to. However, I found I could read a few pages of one of his books and wrestle with the ideas he presented for several days. Like a cow chews its cud over and over, I would take Fromm’s ideas and chew on them again and again.
Here’s the thing: we were all conditioned as children to think and believe certain things about the world. We were given lenses to view the world through and we were told “that’s just the way the world is.” But in our quiet moments, we took those lenses off and saw a different world than we were taught. Our eyes opened, ever-so-slightly, then we put the lenses back on. That one short moment with the lenses off ate away at us. Questions started to form about inconsistencies we witnessed. Out of fear, we kept our mouths shut because we didn’t want to upset the apple cart. Most people rarely question their conditioning because, frankly, it’s very difficult to go against the grain.
But once in a while, you stumble across an author that speaks in the same language, on the same level, and at the perfect time, just as all the unanswered questions are damming up in the back of your mind. So much of what you have been taught was carefully controlled by some bureaucrats that insisted their “truth” was the only thing that was true. You’re actually safer to assume nearly everything you were taught was false—or at the very least, misinformed. Take what you were conditioned to believe about the world, deconstruct it, then build it back up one brick at a time.
“To be alive is to grow, to develop, to respond,” Fromm says. The world becomes a better place not by changes that are made out there; but instead, the world improves when individuals like me and you choose to grow, to develop, and to respond. As we make individual changes inside each one of us, the world changes before our eyes.
Pretty soon, those lenses you were conditioned to look through are transformed and you begin to see the world clearly.
Have a blessed day.
Peace and Love,