A sane society is one in which qualities like greed, exploitativeness, possessiveness, narcissism, have no chance to be used for greater material gain or for the enhancement of one’s personal prestige.
It started with crazy Max, which led to leading, that carried me off to memes, that dropped me flat in sanesville. If the insane are convinced of their sanity, and we all think we’re sane, then everyone is whacked. This funhouse has no exit. As we go spinning in circles day after day, and looping around the sun year after year, we keep dancing around the same problems millennium after millennium. Some crying it’s the end of the world, some boasting that we’re seeing the dawn of utopia. Something is missing. There’s a disconnect. As the proverb goes, “A half-truth is a whole lie.” And there are others, “A lie that is half-truth is the darkest of all lies.” “The best lies are always at least partially true.” “It’s twice as hard to crush a half-truth as a whole lie.” “Those who don’t read the newspapers are better off than those who do insofar as those who know nothing are better off than those whose heads are filled with half-truths and lies.” “Proverbs should be sold in pairs, a single one being but half a truth.”
All of these aphorisms have one connecting thread; we need the whole picture to merely get a clue. Erich Fromm, early-mid-20th century psychologist/sociologist, presents us with a few more angles on the subject of self and society. His views are comprehensive, sometimes slightly contradictory, but as I read through The Sane Society, gritting my teeth at times, I kept being surprised by his frankness, by his un-sugarcoated presentation of his opinions. In spite of some unevenness, some bouts of fluffy bunny-wabbit daydweams, he gives us a wide range of thoughts to digest from a point of view that’s been sidestepped. He’s someone possibly known to psychologists and sociologists, but never made it into the pop-psych spotlight. A cursory search of the most famous 20th century sociologists didn’t bring him up in the top 20 out of four separate lists, except for one where he came in, surprisingly, number two. As a psychologist, he didn’t make a single list even in the top 100. He was, to his credit, a vocal critic of Freud. His thoughts are not exactly concordant with orthodox opinion in any camp—too socialistic for capitalists, too individualistic for socialists, too spiritualistic for humanists, too romantic for rationalists, too critical for utopians, too ecumenical for theists or atheists. Considering that each of those limited and lopsided categories only presents us with half-truths, Fromm’s more complete views are likely on to something. While he fits none of these categories without qualifications, his major shortcoming is being too ambitious and complex for simplistic mass consumption. Take that as a backhanded criticism.
In building a new industrial machine, man became so absorbed in the new task that it became the paramount goal of his life. His energies, which once were devoted to the search for god and salvation, were now directed toward the domination of nature and ever-increasing material comfort. He ceased to use production as a means for a better life, but hypostatized it instead to an end in itself, an end to which life was subordinated. In the process of an ever-increasing division of labor, ever-increasing mechanization of work, and an ever-increasing size of social agglomerations, man himself became a part of the machine, rather than its master.
How many times have we heard the accusation of man becoming a machine, or losing his control over the machines and inventions he’s fabricated. It’s become a cliché. But instead of taking heed, we are now inured to the warning and its consequences, perhaps happy about it, or proud of it. This mechanization of man leads to Fromm’s primary thesis : alienation. Isolation, disconnection, alienation, these words distinguish the sane from the insane. Sanity is being connected to reality, connected to oneself, and connected socially with friends, relatives, coworkers, and one’s culture. His argument is that our modern industrial/economic system is constructed with a dominance/submission modality that alienates us. Our cultural habits promote competition that further atomizes society, and keeps the individual powerless. The fissures created by our political/economic/industrial institutions distance the individual from him/herself, from work and from society. The disconnection is insanity. He posits that the entire system, and each individual, needs to rebuild its connections, internally and externally. Then, instead of just complaining, he goes about offering solutions.
By alienation is meant a mode of experience in which the person experiences himself as an alien. He has become, one might say, estranged from himself. He does not experience himself as the center of his world, as the creator of his own acts—but his acts and their consequences have become his masters, whom he obeys, or whom he may even worship. The alienated person is out of touch with himself as he is out of touch with any other person. The older meaning in which “alienation” was used was to denote an insane person.
Hold on—that sounds remarkably like Max Stirner.* This idea of the self at the center of one’s world, or in Stirner’s words, “owning oneself,” or in Fromm’s words, “sense of identity,” keeps popping up throughout the book. I point this out because Fromm also keeps emphasizing community and social connections.
Even while stressing selfness, his sales pitch simultaneously avoids overt individualism and leans strongly towards socialism. He understands both the need for individuality and the individual’s need for social bonding. Without both in critical balance, the wheels of civilization wobble out of control. The idea inferred is a healthy sociocultural civilization can only be had when each individual is healthy and sane. “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
Man can attempt to become one with the world by submission to a person, to a group, to an institution, to god. In this way he transcends the separateness of his individual existence by becoming part of somebody or something bigger than himself, and experiences his identity in connection with the power to which he has submitted. Another possibility of overcoming separateness lies in the opposite direction; man can try to unite himself with the world by having power over it, by making others a part of himself, and thus transcending his individual existence by domination. Both persons involved have lost their integrity and freedom. The realization of the submissive (masochistic) or the domineering (sadistic) passion never leads to satisfaction. They have a self-propelling dynamism, and because no amount of submission, or domination (or possession, or fame) is enough to give a sense of identity and union, more and more of it is sought. The person driven by any one of these passions actually becomes dependent on others; instead of developing his own individual being, he is dependent of those to whom he submits, or who he dominates.
Many substitutes for a truly individual sense of identity were sought for, and found. Nation, religion, class and occupation serve to furnish sense of identity. They are in a broad sense status identifications, . . .[where] there is much social mobility, these status identifications are less efficient, and the sense of identity is shifted more and more to the experience of conformity. Instead of the pre-individualistic clan identity, a new herd identity develops, in which the sense of identity rests on the sense of an unquestionable belonging to the crowd. That this uniformity and conformity are often not recognized as such, and are covered by the illusion of individuality, does not alter the facts.
The need to feel a sense of identity stems from the very condition of human existence, and it is the source of the most intense strivings. Since I cannot remain sane without the sense of “I,” I am driven to do almost anything to acquire this sense. Behind the intense passion for status and conformity is this very need, and it is sometimes even stronger than the need for physical survival. What could be more obvious than the fact that people are willing to risk their lives, to give up their love, to surrender their freedom, to sacrifice their own thoughts for the sake of being one of the herd, of conforming, and thus of acquiring a sense of identity, even though it is an illusory one.
The recurring theme of self is accompanied by the recurring theme of reason/rationality. He splits a hair between reason and intelligence. Fortunately he explains the difference as he understands it—intelligence being the ability to manipulate knowledge (science and technology), reason being the understanding of knowledge (ethics, objectivity, analytical/critical/rational thinking.)
Man finds himself surrounded by many puzzling phenomena and, having reason, he has to make sense of them in some context which he can understand and which permits him to deal with them in his thoughts. The further his reason develops, the more adequate becomes his system of orientation, that is, the more it approximates reality. But even if man’s frame of orientation is utterly illusory, it satisfies his need for some picture which is meaningful to him. Whether he believes in the power of a totem animal, in a rain god, or in the superiority and destiny of his race, his need for some frame of orientation is satisfied. Quite obviously, the picture of the world which he has depends on the development of his reason and of his knowledge. Although biologically the brain capacity of the human has remained the same for thousands of generations, it takes a long evolutionary process to arrive at objectivity, that is, to acquire the faculty to see the world, nature, other persons and oneself as they are, and not distorted by desires and fears. The more man develops this objectivity, the more he is in touch with reality, the more he matures, the better can he create a human world in which he is at home. Reason is man’s faculty for grasping the world by thought, in contradiction to intelligence, which is man’s ability to manipulate the world. Reason is man’s instrument for arriving at the truth.
The new [artificial intelligence] brains are indeed a good illustration of what is meant here by intelligence. They manipulate data which are fed into them; they compare, select, and eventually come out with results more quickly or more error-proof than human intelligence could. What the electric brain cannot do is think creatively, to arrive at an insight into the essence of the observed facts, to go beyond the data with which it has been fed. The machine can duplicate or even improve on intelligence, but it cannot simulate reason.
Reason above intelligence, objectivity before emotions (desires and fears)—his heresy doesn’t stop. These ideas may not be new, but they certainly aren’t popular, and they are certainly, conveniently forgotten. He also points out the “long evolutionary process to arrive at objectivity.” It seems we humans haven’t gotten too far with the development of our reason. You would think, after a few thousand years of civilization, we’d have progressed a bit farther. I’ve thought that, too. At the rate we’re going, our reason isn’t going to catch up with our technology soon enough. From my point of view, though, I don’t see splitting intelligence from reason. The two go hand in hand. One without the other is useless; intelligence without reason is dangerous. Knowing a lot, being a walking encyclopedia, does not make one smart. Libraries are overflowing with knowledge. Libraries can’t think, can’t reason. It’s the understanding of knowledge that counts—how, when, where, and why to use it in rational, logical, ethical ways—that’s intelligence.
The sanity of society is judged by its collective mental health. “An unhealthy society is one which creates mutual hostility, distrust, which transforms man into an instrument of use and exploitation for others, which deprives him of a sense of self, except inasmuch as he submits to others or becomes an automaton. Society can have both functions, it can further man’s healthy development, and it can hinder it; in fact most societies do both, and the question is only to what degree and in what directions their positive and negative influence is exercised.” We can see this in the contemporary western world, most notably in North America. This is nothing new. The push and pull of minor improvements and recurring setbacks should be sounding an alarm. Instead it seems to be producing more hostility (violence), distrust (conspiracy theories), low wage/low status jobs (exploitation), and the consequent automation of people (automatons) who simply go through the motions lifelessly.
If democracy means that the individual expresses his conviction and asserts his will, the premise is that he has conviction, and that he has a will. The facts, however, are that the modern, alienated individual has opinions and prejudices but no convictions, has likes and dislikes, but no will. His opinions and prejudices, likes and dislikes, are manipulated in the same way as his taste is, by the powerful propaganda machines—which might not be effective were he not already conditioned to such influences by advertising and by his whole alienated way of life.
The average voter is poorly informed too. While he reads his newspaper regularly, the whole world is so alienated from him that nothing makes real sense or carries real meaning. He reads of billion of dollars being spent, of million of people being killed; figures, abstractions, which are in no way interpreted in a concrete, meaningful picture of the world. The science fiction he reads is little different from the science news. Everything is unreal, unlimited, impersonal. Facts are so many lists of memory items, like puzzles in a game, not elements of which his life and that of his children depend.
This is not only questioning the validity of democracy when the people are under stress. This is not just a strike at capitalism, it’s a stab at commercial mass media that has no responsibility towards the public, except to get them to consume. It’s a clear warming of the power electronic media has over us. Pseudo-social media is proving to be a quasi-omnipotent new complication. “They are listening to the drums of propaganda, and facts mean little in comparison with the suggestive noise which hammers at them.” Keep ’em fat ‘n’ happy. This is a nonfiction version of Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World, where everyone is kept happy, and stupid, and passive. Not only can’t democracy survive under these conditions, our high-tech modern world can’t survive. We believe we live in separate countries, thousands of kilometers apart, that can remain autonomous and independent—what happens in Shangri-la stays in Shangri-la. As the world population nears eight billion people, as our communication and transportation systems have linked us physically in hours, electronically in microseconds, we can’t close off ourselves in imaginary bubbles believing that we are immune to the effects of what’s happening on other continents, or that what we do at home doesn’t have global consequences. The earth is our island—no one is a foreigner, nowhere on earth. My apologies for stating the obvious, we already know this. We learned it long ago from the striking photographs of earth’s full disc in full color viewed from space. We learned that over fifty years ago. Duh. But then, maybe this is another example of the disconnect between knowing and understanding.
The ways in which issues and the popular will on any issue are being manufactured is exactly analogous to the ways of commercial advertising. We find the same attempts to contact the subconscious. We find the same technique of creating favorable and unfavorable associations which are the more effective the less rational they are. We find the same evasions and reticences and the same trick of producing opinion by reiterated assertion that is successful precisely to the extent to which it avoids rational argument and the danger of awakening the critical faculties of the people. — Joseph Schumpeter
If the last quotation doesn’t bring to mind the build up to the 2003 Gulf War, or the justifications of any war, or the politics of public health policy, or the real estate bubble, or the dot-com bubble, or the Y2K scare, or the communist scare, or the manipulative tactics of any authoritarian government, or the bizarre behavior of governments worldwide over the past year, or the . . , then either you’ve been taking too many drugs, or you’re Rip VanWinkle, or you’re not old enough to remember, or you’ve lost your memory, or you’ve lost your critical thinking faculties.
All social life, even in its most primitive form, requires a certain amount of social co-operation, and even discipline, and that certainly in the more complex form of industrial production, a person has to fulfill certain necessary and specialized functions. While this statement is quite true, it ignores the basic difference: in a society where no person has power over another, each person fulfills his functions on the basis of co-operation and mutuality. No on can command another person, expect insofar as a relationship is based on mutual co-operation.
Again, this echoes Stirner, but stated in a much easier to understand, and swallow, manner. Then there is his attack on consumerism and the commodification of persons. Our advertising driven consumer culture economy is stealing all it can from us with the excuse of giving us “appropriate ads,” or “the best possible experience,” or “keeping us connected.” Advertising is not a relationship based on mutual cooperation, trust or respect.
The alienated attitude toward consumption not only exists in our acquisition and consumption of commodities, but it determines far beyond this the employment of leisure time. What are we to expect? If a man works without genuine relatedness to what he is doing, if he buys and consumes commodities in an abstractified and alienated way, how can he make use of his leisure time in an active and meaningful way? He always remains the passive and alienated consumer. He “consumes” ball games, moving pictures, newspapers and magazines, books, lectures, natural scenery, social gatherings, in the same alienated and abstractified way in which he consumes the commodities he has bought. He does not participate actively, he wants to “take in” all there is to be had, and to have as much as possible of pleasure and culture. Actually, he is not free to enjoy “his” leisure; his leisure-time consumption is determined by the industry, as are the commodities he buys; his taste is manipulated, he wants to see and to hear what he is conditioned to want; entertainment is an industry like any other, the customer is made to buy fun as he is made to buy dresses and shoes. The value of the fun is determined by its success on the market, not by anything which could be measure in human terms.
I have described elsewhere this relationship as “marketing orientation.” In this orientation, man experiences himself as a thing to be employed successfully on the market. He does not experience himself as an active agent, as the bearer of human powers. He is alienated from these powers. His aim is to sell himself successfully on the market. His sense of self does not stem from his activity as a loving and thinking individual, but from his socio-economic role. . . .That is the way he experiences himself, not as a man, with love, fear, convictions, doubts, but as that abstraction, alienated from his real nature, which fulfills a certain function in the social system. His sense of value depends on his success: on whether he can sell himself favorably. His body, his mind and his soul are his capital, and his task in life is to invest it favorably, to make a profit of himself. Human qualities like friendliness, courtesy, kindness, are transformed into commodities, into assets of the “personality package,” conducive to a higher price on the personality market. If the individual fails in a profitable investment of himself, he feels that he is a failure. Clearly, his sense of his own value always depends on factors extraneous to himself, on the fickle judgment of the market, which decides about his value as it decides about the value of commodities.
The alienated personality who is for sale must lose a good deal of the sense of dignity which is so characteristic of man even in most primitive cultures. He must lose almost all sense of self, of himself as a unique and induplicable entity. The sense of self stems from the experience of myself as the subject of my experiences, my thoughts, my feeling, my decision, my judgment, my action. It presupposes that my experience is my own, and not an alienated one. Things have no self and men who have become things can have no self.
The discussion continually comes back to the treatment of people as objects, as substitutes for machines that haven’t yet been invented, but soon to replace them. People as disposable robots for the performance of a specific, limited role, and when that role is no longer needed, or it’s been filled by automation, those people get tossed out with the trash. The dehumanization of the person by industrialization, mechanization, and now digitalization of work that was once done by living breathing humans appears inevitable. This dehumanization disturbs the social and psychological balance. But Fromm sees a way out. He suggests many workable and obvious solutions, some that have already been tried, but on too small a scale.
He’s concerned with the numbing of the mind by industrialization. As complex tasks become more and more automated with icon touch screens, voice activated assistants, self-controlled robots, artificial (imitation) intelligence, job after job is becoming less demanding. Skills of the past are unnecessary. The worker requires little training, no experience, and is left with zero decision making responsibility. The lower expectations on the employee, puts less demand on his mind, detaching him further from the job. I know first hand as a photographer. Silver based film was difficult. It took knowledge, practice, skill, and years of experience—and still one never fully mastered it. Today, the camera in your mobile device is lightyears ahead of film, and drop-dead easy. If you never learned how to capture images using film, with manual cameras, exposure meters, chemical processing, you don’t have any idea what’s going on inside your digital imaging hardware and software. Even if you know something about the silver-halide process, you won’t have a clue to what’s going on in the digital realm of image capture and processing. You’ll only know the simple interface—the real workings are hidden behind the pretty LED display. It gives us a smiley-face world of make-believe as we pretend we’re in control of superpowers. In the grown-up world of real life, we’re simply pushing buttons, as any toddler can do.
In observing the quality of thinking in alienated man, it is striking to see how his intelligence has developed and how his reason has deteriorated. He takes his reality for granted; he wants to eat it, consume it, touch it manipulated it. He does not even ask what is behind it, why things are as they are, and where they are going. You cannot eat the meaning, you cannot consume the sense. Even from the nineteenth century to our day, there seems to have occurred an observable increase in stupidity, if by this we mean the opposite to reason, rather than to intelligence. In spite of the fact that everybody reads the daily paper religiously, there is an absence of understanding of the meaning of political events which is truly frightening, because our intelligence helps us to produce weapons which our reason is not capable of controlling.
He argues that the industrial age and capitalism has alienated not just workers, but also management, the executive suite, and the ruling class. This alienation disconnects everyone from themselves, from culture and reality. Disconnection from reality is the very definition of insanity. Fromm’s solution : socialism. But before you start screaming he’s a pinko communist, he reveals himself to be severely negative concerning the world’s feeble attempts at socialism. In the middle of the book, he dives into Socialism and its permutations, Marxism, Communism, Stalinism, Fascism, Nazism, and he doesn’t spare his criticism of any of them, with particular attention on Marx.He rails against how the Soviet system descended into Stalinist totalitarianism in direct opposition to socialist ideals. He lambasts German socialism spinning out of control into a Nazi nightmare. And he thoroughly shreds Great Britain’s failed socialization of heavy industry. He’s not a pollyanna rose colored glasses socialist. In recognition of these failures, he blames them on the leadership losing sight of the basic principles that are the foundation of socialism. In other words, these are aborted attempts that started with socialism and veered off track, way off track. Fromm continues with talk of getting radical. He differentiates, mind you, between being radical, getting to the root; from radical violence, a destructive dead end. Target hit.
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing the words “Socialism” and “Marxism” have been charged with such an emotional impact that it is difficult to discuss these problems in a calm atmosphere. The irrational response which is evoked by the words Socialism and Marxism is furthered by an astounding ignorance on the part of most of those who become hysterical when they hear these words, in spite of the fact that all of Marx’s and other socialists’ writings are available to be read by everybody, most of those who feel most violently about Socialism and Marxism have never read a word by Marx, and many others have only a very superficial knowledge.
There is reform and reform; reform can be radical, that is, going to the roots, or it can be superficial, trying to patch up symptoms without touching the causes. Reform which is not radical, in this sense, never accomplishes its ends and eventually ends up in the opposite direction. So-called “radicalism” on the other hand, which believes that we can solve problems by force, when observation, patience and continuous activity is required, is unrealistic and fictitious as reform. The true criterion of reform is not its tempo but its realism, its true radicalism, it is the question whether it goes to the roots and attempts to change causes—or whether it remains on the surface and attempts to deal only with symptoms.
He [Marx] did not recognize the irrational forces in man which make him afraid of freedom, and which produce his lust for power and his destructiveness. On the contrary, underlying his concept of man was the implicit assumption of man’s natural goodness, which would assert itself as soon as the crippling economic shackles were released. The famous statement at the end of the Communist Manifestothat the workers “have nothing to lose but their chains,” contains a profound psychological error. With their chains they have also to lose all those irrational needs and satisfactions which were originated while they were wearing the chains. In this respect, Marx and Engels never transcended the naive optimism of the eighteen century.
First of all, to his neglect of the moral factor in man. Just because he assumed that the goodness of man would assert itself automatically when the economic changes had been achieved, he did not see that a better society could not be brought into life by people who had not undergone a moral change within themselves.
The second error, stemming from the same source, was Marx’s grotesque misjudgment of the chances for the realization of Socialism. In contrast to men like Proudhon and Bakunin, who foresaw the darkness which would envelop the Western world before new light would shine, Marx and Engels believed in the immediate advent of the “good society,” and were only dimly aware of the possibility of a new barbarism in the form of communist and fascist authoritarianism and wars of unheard of destructiveness. This unrealistic misapprehension was responsible for many of the theoretical and political errors in their thinking, and it was the basis for the destruction of Socialism which began with Lenin.
The third error was Marx’s concept that the socialization of the means of production was not only the necessary, but also the sufficient condition for the transformation of the capitalist into a socialist co-operative society. At the bottom of this error is again his oversimplified, over optimistic, rationalistic picture of man.
This is the most astute criticism of Marx I’ve ever read. Marx was not only writing in a different world, when most people were still self-employed in agriculture, independent merchants/professionals. It was in stark contrast to the changes that were just beginning to build up in the mid 19th century. It was a time when over 80% were independent farmers or business owners, that by the mid 1900s flip-flops to mostly large scale manufacturing and 80% employees. (And the numbers of independent small business continues to drop lower through the end of the 20th century.) He was, like most economic theorists, also blissfully ignorant of human ignorance and lack of rational behavior. These errors are still being made today by almost every political and economic talking-head. It stresses the need for a revolution in thinking, not for new leaders who say pretty words, or new laws that make pretty promises, or new theories that propose pretty solutions. We don’t need optimism, we don’t need socialism, we don’t need to shout down or shoot down the “enemy,” and we don’t need rhetoric or belief systems. We need rational intelligence. This point is made in one form or another chapter after chapter.
To sum up, the vast majority of the population work as employees with little skill required, and with almost no chance to develop any particular talents, or to show any outstanding achievements. The vast majority sell their physical, or an exceedingly small part of their intellectual capacity to an employer to be used for purposes of profit in which they have no share, for things in which they have no interest, with the only purpose of making a living, and for some chance to satisfy their consumer’s greed.
Dissatisfaction, apathy, boredom, lack of joy and happiness, a sense of futility and a vague feeling that life is meaningless, are the unavoidable results of this situation. This socially patterned syndrome of pathology may not be in the awareness of people; it may be covered by a frantic flight into escape activities, or by a craving for more money, power, prestige. But the weight of the latter motivations is so great only because the alienated person cannot help seeking for such compensations for his inner vacuity.
As with other critics of the modern world, Fromm clearly identifies the symptoms. None of them ever get radical enough, none get to the root causes, and they all want to treat the symptoms. Although, Fromm sees the symptoms, and identifies them as such, and offers some viable corrections, he still doesn’t go deep enough. As long as symptoms are treated as causes, nothing will succeed. Socialism is neither symptom nor solution. No system, neither capitalist nor socialist can end the dehumanization, demoralization and alienation of modern civilization without rational intellectual change. Every system of ism or -archy will continue to fail economically, politically, and socially, unless the majority of its members act as a whole, in unison, with reason, fairness, and honesty. Until we give up our fears, until we change our thoughts and attitudes about our individual selves, our collective selves, and our neighbors, there will be no resolution. The sea change necessary cannot happen by trying to change our social, political or economic systems. It will not change with new laws, or new political leaders, or new technology. Only individual, one person at a time, internal, personal change can make it happen. Change on the societal level has to start at the top and gradually spread from there. That’s where the power lies, and the power for systemic change lies. This is not about “trickle down,” that’s economic foolishness. This is not about revolution. Revolution is spinning in circles. It’s about rudimentary, radical changes in thought patterns that can facilitate permanent widespread social change. Change, not in politics, not by decrees, not through force, but in contrast, by voluntary rational choice.
The Sane Society is a bit dated, yet its message is as spot-on today as it was over half a century ago when it was written in 1955. I wish it wasn’t true. I wish the book was an historical artifact to remind us of how far we’ve progressed since then. Instead it’s a reminder of how far we have let exploitation, consumerism, pollution, gross consumption of resources, and population growth get away from us. To close, here’s one more except from the book that summarizes perfectly his ideas and the thoughts of every rational human thinker before him, and after.
Mental health, in the humanistic sense, is characterized by the ability to love and to create, by a sense of identity based on one’s experience of self as the subject and agent of one’s powers, by the grasp of reality inside and outside of ourselves, that is, by the development of objectivity and reason. The aim of life is to live it intensely, to be fully born, to be fully awake. To emerge from the ideas of infantile grandiosity into the conviction of one’s real though limited strength; to be able to accept the paradox that every one of us is the most important thing there is in the universe—and at the same time not more important than a fly or a blade of grass. To be able to love life, and yet to accept death without terror; to tolerate uncertainty about the most important questions with which life confronts us—and yet to have faith in our thought and feeling, inasmuch as they are truly ours. To be able to be alone, and at the same time one with a loved person, with every brother on this earth, with all that is alive; to follow the voice of our conscience, the voice that calls us to ourselves, yet not to indulge in self hate when the voice of conscience was not loud enough to be heard and followed. The mentally healthy person is the person who lives by love and reason, who respects life, his own and that of his fellow man.
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