(NOTE: I am going to start posting a series of discussion questions in the evenings that are related to the ideas I explore in the regular posts. Please feel free to contribute your thoughts in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!)
A central concern of Erich Fromm’s was the rampant materialism that Fromm observed in our modern, industrialized culture. He worried that as a result of current day economic realities, people were more oriented toward “having” and less toward “being”. By this he clearly meant that the material objects that a person accumulates define her. Yet he also wanted to suggest that we often take a “having” orientation toward people, vocations and skills. We “have” our children, our jobs and our abilities. The problem, then, is that our identities become deeply bound to that which we possess rather than to something more internal or intrinsic to our individual selves. So if we lose those objects (“object” here meaning anything that is possessed), we risk losing ourselves. We risk rendering our lives meaningless. I am not certain, but I think this is similar to the notion of detachment in Buddhism and Hinduism.
So what do you think? Is there any value in possessing objects external to our inner being? Or, like Fromm, do you worry that “being” and “having” are antagonistic concepts?