As if by Magic

I often wonder why I think of JJ from time to time and why I dream about him very often. I suppose there are many reasons, but I think the biggest reason is that I have faith in his capacity, in his essential being.

Erich Fromm put forth the idea that Love is an art. Love is primarily giving, not receiving. Giving is the highest expression of potency. Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of alivenessLove is an art, just as living is an art. Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one’s capacity to love. (Fromm)

He suggests the attitude that there is nothing to be learned about how to love is the premise of our modern view of love. It is not something you do, but something that just happens, as if by magic. This attitude – that nothing is easier than to love – has continued to be the prevalent idea about love in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There is hardly an activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love…. (Fromm)If we want to learn how to love we have to proceed as we would in the same way we would if we wanted to learn any other art such as music, painting, or cooking.

The attitude that there is nothing to be learned about love is the assumption that the problem of love is the problem of an object, not the problem of a faculty. People think that to love is simple, but that to find the right object to love – or to be loved by – is difficult. (Fromm)

The confusion between the initial experience of “falling” in love, and the permanent state of being in love, or as we might better say, of “standing” in love. Indeed, Fromm claims that the intensity and excitement which accompanies moments of infatuation is frequently relative to the degree of loneliness and isolation which has been previously experienced. As such, it is commonly followed, sooner or later, by boredom and disappointment.


In opposition to this naïve, selfish, drive to escape separateness and aloneness, Fromm insists that “paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love” (Art, p.88), and that the ability to experience real love is based on a commitment to the freedom and autonomy of both partners: “Mature love” he writes “is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality… In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two” (Art, p.16). Thus the need for connection is answered through a relatedness which allows us to transcend our separateness without denying us our uniqueness. According to the German poet Rilke, this is the only solution to the dichotomy of separateness and connection. Rilke argues that “even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, [but] a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky” (Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties, p.34). Fromm says further that one must reach out to the other with one’s whole being: “Love is possible only if two persons communicate with each other from the centre of their existence” (Art, p.80). –

I have reread this book more than any other that I own, partly because it’s short, but mostly because Fromm is such a lucid and perceptive writer. I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. I don’t agree with all of it — his take on homosexuality, for instance, which may or may not be attributable to the day in which it was written — and many readers may not care for the way he frames behavioral patterns in psychoanalytic terms. That said, you can read right past those stylistic elements, because his prose is positively oozing with compassion. I don’t think it’s overly dramatic to say that it would take me longer to convey how excellent this little book is than it would take you to read it. – by Ben R. (

If you would really like to give someone you care for a gift for valentines day or fornicalia or just for no reason at all, don’t give this this book, read it yourself.  I’ll make it really easy for you – here is a link for a free download:

Quail in Rose Petal Sauce (back by popular demand)


  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbls hibiscus flowers
  • 3” stick of cinnamon
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tbls cornstarch
  • 2 tsp anise seeds (not star anise)
  • 5 chestnuts, minced
  • 1 pithaya, or cactus pear, peeled and sliced (optional, if available)
  • 8 quail
  • 1 stick butter (4 oz)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch sugar
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • 1 tbls rose water
  • Edible roses and flowers

In a small saucepan, add the water, hibiscus flowers, cinnamon, and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Strain and save the liquid, discard the hibiscus, cinnamon and cloves. Set aside.
In a molcajete or mortar and pestle, grind the anise seeds, chestnuts and pithaya until they are a smooth paste. Set aside.
Heat your oven to about 200° or turn on your warming drawer,  if you have one. Meanwhile, in a large 10” skillet, heat the butter until it is melted. Add the quail, and fry gently for 15-20 minutes, until the quail are golden and their juices run only faintly pink. Salt lightly and remove to an ovenproof platter, reserving the cooking butter in the skillet. Place the platter in your warmed oven or warming drawer, holding there until your sauce is ready.
Turn the stove to a low flame, and return the skillet to heat. Add the garlic, along with the chestnut anise paste and roast gently in the butter for 20 seconds. Turn off the heat and allow the butter to cool slightly about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch into the hibiscus tea, and pour into the skillet with the butter. Return the butter to the heat, and stir gently but thoroughly until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Using a mesh strainer, strain the sauce, reserving the butter and discarding what is strained out. Stir in the rosewater.
Pour the sauce over the quail, and allow the platter to hold in the oven about 10 minutes, until the quail is well soaked in the sauce. Decorate the plate with rose petals and edible flowers right before serving.


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