I’m preparing to read Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm. This is the second book in a Fromm series of three or so that I’m reading. I finished The Art of Loving a couple weeks ago. I’m not going to upload the notes I wrote from that book, but I thought I might as well add my progress and experience of this book since I’m just starting it.
I read the forwards for Escape from Freedom the other day. I decided to write down my basic thoughts about freedom and human capacity for freedom before I started reading. My friend loaned these books to me, so I like to send him my thoughts after I finish them. He’s the type who wants to know the inherent biases of a person, so I wrote mine down so that he could be aware^^
I don’t know if I believe freedom is possible for humans. I think it is human nature to be enslaved. Just as a sadist is controlled by the masochist’s willingness to submit and the abuser the abused’s, I think humans 1) cannot be free; 2) want to be controlled. (But I do not justify abuse or sadism by making that statement)
Being controlled is always more comfortable for a person–as she has guidelines of behavior. How should a good girl act? How should a bad girl act? We all know, since we have guideelines. All we have to do is follow the guidelines and we are what we want to be, at least in appearance.
Freedom is uncomfortable because of the lack of boundaries and the unknown. Freedom means a lack of security.
Ultimately, true freedom would require the absence of death, since death is the greatest insecurity.
What about the people who travel constantly, following the wind? They are not completely free because they cannot have all that they want. They were forced to submit to the constraints (slavery) of the world in order to attain their mobility. They are not free to have everything (security, stability, family, friends–love).
Freedom would mean access to all things, no boundaries. But humans are bounded creatures; they cannot attain freedom and do not truly want it (since insecurity is involved).
Why else don’t they want freedom? It’s frightening. True freedom–making all your own decisions, living with your own consequences, relying fully on others–is terrifying. Humans are creatures of habit. We live for habit.
Here, I am reminded of “Self-Reliance,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I read a section of it in high school and remember a part of it because I loved it.
The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.
We need to know where we stand in line with others. That is a basic human action. Freedom interrupts all of that.
I think I’ll write my next “essay” on “Self-Reliance”–once I read it–and then I’ll begin on Escape From Freedom.
If you’re interested, “Self-Reliance” and other Emerson essays can be found here: http://www.emersoncentral.com/selfreliance.htm