The New Man
I just finished Reading Eric Fromm's To Have or To Be, which is a fantastic book discussing the differences in a having based existence and one based on being. Fromm proposes that almost all of us live a having focused life, and that its hard not to do while growing up in the rules our current society raises us in. He suggests the being mode of living as superior, with several chapters explaining the differences and virtues of the being based lifestyle.
He then lists a set of requirements that would be needed for a new society that would cultivate being based people and suggests a set of first steps that are just as relevant today as they were when he wrote them 38 years ago.
The following description of what a being based person consists of is probably the best list of life goals and guidelines that I have come across.
The New Man
The function of the new society is to encourage the emergence of a new Man, beings whose character structure will exhibit the following qualities:
- Willingness to give up all forms of having, in order to fully be.
- Security, sense of identity, and confidence based on faith in what one is, on one's need for relatedness, interest, love, solidarity with the world around one, instead of on one's desire to have, to posses, to control the world, and thus become the slave of one's possessions.
- Acceptance of the fact that nobody and nothing outside oneself give meaning to life, but that this radical independence and no-thingness can become the condition for the fullest activity devoted to caring and sharing.
- Being fully present where one is.
- Joy that comes from giving and sharing, not from hoarding and exploiting.
- Love and respect for life in all its manifestations, in the knowledge that not things, power, all that is dead, but life and everything that pertains to its growth are sacred.
- Trying to reduce greed, hate, and illusions as much as one is capable.
- Living without worshiping idols and without illusions, because one has reached a state that does not require illusions.
- Developing one's capacity for love, together with one's capacity for critical, unsentimental thought.
- Shedding one's narcissism and accepting the tragic limitations inherent in human existence.
- Making the full growth of oneself and of one's fellow beings the supreme goal of living.
- Knowing that to reach this goal discipline and respect for reality are necessary.
- Knowing, also, that no growth is healthy that does not occur in a structure, but knowing, too, the difference between structure as an attribute of life and "order" as an attribute of no-life, of the dead.
- Developing one's imagination, not as an escape from intolerable circumstances but as the anticipation of real possibilities, as a means to do away with intolerable circumstances.
- Not deceiving others, but also not being deceived by others; one may be called innocent, but not naive.
- Knowing oneself, not only the self one knows, but also the self one does not know--even though one has a slumbering knowledge of what one does not know.
- Sensing one's oneness with all life, hence giving up the aim of conquering nature, subduing it, exploiting it, raping it, destroying it, but trying, rather, to understand and cooperate with nature.
- Freedom that is not arbitrariness but the possibility to be oneself, not as a bundle of greedy desires, but as a delicately balanced structure that all any moment is confronted with the alternative of growth or decay, life or death.
- Knowing that evil and destructiveness are necessary consequences of failure to grow.
- Knowing that only a few have reached perfection in all these qualities, but being without the ambition to "reach the goal," in the knowledge that such ambition is only another form of greed, of having.
- Happiness in the process of ever-growing aliveness, whatever the furthest point is that fate permits one to reach, for living as fully as one can is so satisvfactory that the concern for what one might or might not attain has little chance to develop.