top of page

"Its called philoshy"


To Have or To Be 

One of my favorite books that I've had the chance to read recently has been Erich Fromm - To have or to be. It explains two modes of "Being", living and participating in life: The "Having" mode, the type of mindset that sees everything as a possession and must be "had. Fromm distinguishes what makes up the identity of an individual whose life is predicated on the things that they have or want to possess as opposed to the "Being" person, the individual whose esteem comes from his or her own qualities or skills and "Being in the moment" while not possessing it. Being a psychoanalyst  Fromm picks up on this in individuals' language and how they speak on simple things like "I have a headache" versus "my head hurts" you can't "have" a headache he would say but your head can hurt. Another example which may make this clear is attending a concert, Fromm and I would say the concertgoers with their phones out recording the show are in the Having mode, they want to savor and take home the concert for later as if it were leftovers, they want to have some part of it, for whatever societal or personal benefits may come from it.  As opposed to the concert goer in the Being mode who simply enjoys being at the concert and has no intent for this moment's happiness to go beyond what is here and now.


Thinking this way may not always be advantageous today, but it was a good starting point for me and whoever else wants a way to decide on the important things in life and what to really focus on. It makes you look at life as something to be lived with not as something to be possessed and had. Fromm asks "If your sense of identity is based on what you have, then what are you if you lose what you have ?"  and I find that question even more relevant today in the time of instant gratification than Fromms of the 1950s.


If you developed skills within yourself that are not external and cant be bought no one or thing can take them away, In a way, it is a philosophy of self-help like a lot we see today to dispel the anxieties that we may go through of not having enough, the solution in Fromms and my eyes is to be enough. Focus on developing skills and traits and not possessing the things that may come from a well-developed skill or trait You cannot by expertise and rarely will anxiety and self concinnous creep up because a well-cultivated skill is hard to take away from someone it stands on solid ground in the soul and will make an even more grounded person in times of adversity.

 - C91


Further Readings: 


[1]Erich Fromm - To Have or To Be 


Hey, I’m Black what's your name? 

What new perspectives can the Artist bring to the world with a box full of the same colors? None, just varying shades of the same hue leading to a lack of detail and granularity where it matters most, and It all blending into seemingly one smudge of an image the further back you are from the canvas.


The sense of identity is the feeling of unity in oneself with nature and surrounding environment. Although this experience of identity is normally tied with a group, class, or clan, it becomes more strongly realized when the individual experiences himself as a productive activity.  [1]




For some identity is nationhood for others, it could be religion or political party, and for the most unfortunate it is race. The unfortunate part is, that nation's borders change as quickly as do the feelings of where those lines were drawn. And religion is treated so capriciously in our culture today that it can often be attended from our couch, so the fear of any type of religious teaching taking hold of man-kind and making "man" out of him is gone, as long as you "watch" and don't "want" God conventional wisdom says your head won't be nailed down for sticking out. But the identity that arises out of the feeling attributed to one's skin color whether valid or not, stays with a people until a new paradigm comes into the consciousness of the group usually through tragic and coercive means such as war, genocide, intellectuals, political party or the sheer indolence of time and in-activity of a people. But in reality, any identity they give to their own skin color is a symphony of thoughts that only get played out when they become acutely aware of others. 


A paradigm shift is defined as "an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way." [2]


The rationing of Germany to the allies at the end of WWII seemed to placate the nationalistic identity a class of German society wore blindly for lands they never saw(see Erich Fromm Escape from freedom). The same could be said for Japan given cultural allowances for both societies at the time, or eighty [3] thousand people being carbonized almost instantly by a technology you've barely heard of may cause a cultural consciousness to which we may refer to as an identity crisis,but superfluidity of death rarely leads to the alignment of a countries actions to what a people may truly desire above that of nationhood, political party, and race. Instead, death is used as a catalyst that bypasses all true feelings and makes death a virtue, but not in action but in taking part in collective contempt. 


"It is not enough that they die, we must find purpose in their death to make up for the purposeless in our lives" 

- R.G.


The same can be said for contemporary religion in America today, the adding and subtracting of frivolous frugality of dress, destination, and denomination has turned the average churchgoer into a verbal advertisement whose identity has been coalesced with the politics of the church. This is different than the thuggish-like religious regimes of the middle east who use violence and subversion as means to what they preach are holy ends. They interpret religious text with the accuracy of a weatherman, to aid in forming their own incongruous identities that are often stroked with power but sublimated in religion. The Taliban in Afghanistan and the religious regime of the Ayatollahs mostly beginning with Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran are the most well noted from the recent past. The middle east is not the only culprit, every dark corner or a nation, organization, and even relationship you illuminate with reason you will see countless individuals use their own forms of salient coercion and will to power, to form new identities in individuals who now become like a foundation to an unsteady house of insecurities, and shifting identities of there own. 


My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (--its will to power:) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on- [4] 


The Will to Power, s.636


Act II:


But for some African Americans, our identities are given to us with the roll of the genetic dice. and it would be beyond my lack of expertise to hypothesize why some people are born with differences in physiology than others. The problem with a race-based identity like said above is that it is hard to shake due to the simple facts of biology. And unlike your nation or religion, you physically wear your identity as a subject, not an object. We experience race as an identity like no other. Because we subjectively experience what it is like to be Black, we not only as a race but as people as a whole do not know what it is like being a nation or religion obviously, we only experience these things through our objective reality, no matter how much the priest, pastor or poet will try to argue against it.


Every wrong we feel as a whole, as a people may be felt by the individual exclusively through the sieve of his or her own psyche and past interactions which may be contrary to the feeling of the masses. But experienced at the group level collectively, being informed by prevailing notions and misreadings of history. The "Group" experience in the collective contempt in whatever is cool to contempt for a contemptible culture leads no room for subjective observation of objective things, Your emotions, wants, desires, and feelings about situation X now get plugged into the cultural switchboard, which routes any original individualistic thought to its pre-determined destination which is already been approved of by our operators through talk, gossip, media, and the occasional intellectual.


When race is used as a by-way to purpose and Identity to the un-initiated any wrong or slight is felt by the individual as an individual, the offense says it's not your country or religion that needs fixing but you. 


Act III:


Being Black meant more than just plugging yourself into entertainment culture and shopping at your favorite "B.O" grocer, it was something that for those who wore that identity suffered for the claim to be called so. 


They suffered for what they believed in, they made the necessary requirements to house their thoughts. Through marches, sit-ins, riots, boycotts, and often death, the civil rights era ushered in what is being hurried out action.


“Reflection is not the evil; but a reflective condition and the deadlock which it involves, by transforming the capacity for action into a means of escape from action, is both corrupt and dangerous, and leads in the end to a retrograde movement.”


― Søren Kierkegaard, The Present Age  [5]


While there is little action today there is plenty of feeling, sentiment, and reflection to go around, which are symptoms of a patient who has too much time on his hands to think and not do, we are in the death throes of our own past and being kept comfortably cool in the shadow of great men, for whom if we keep feeling our way through history their accomplishments will be rendered moot in the minds of coming generations. The civil rights era left us with a lot to say but not too much to do pertaining to race today besides make trivialities out of street names and statues. We have created a virtue out of simply discussing class struggle and vice of any way out of it, we now hold the identity of the "group" as the identity of the individual. 


  - C91











Further Readings:


Escape From Freedom by Erich Fromm  (The problem of the identity of the low/middle-class Germans in pre/post-war Europe) 


The Present Age by Soren Kirkergard

bottom of page