By Troy Headrick
The idea for this blog came to me at 4 a.m. on Valentine’s Day. This proves that the mind can frolic while the body rests.
Back when I was working at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, I was given an interesting assignment. I was asked to team teach a philosophy course and was paired with an eccentric guy—in truth, we’re all eccentric, aren’t we?—in the Philosophy Department. Our mission was to use a series of Great Books in a course called “Social and Political Philosophy.” He would deliver lectures on the texts, and I would use them to teach writing. In other words, he focused on the content of the works, and I used the content to develop writing skills. He gave multiple choice tests, and I assigned essays.
One of the books was Cicero’s On Duties, a work I now know like the back of my hand because I was required to read it at least half a dozen times. In one section of the slim book, Cicero, a fellow who knew something about human relations and leadership, argues that that there are roughly two ways to get people to do what you want them to do. One involves the use of intimidation, to pull rank. Using this method is indeed persuasive, but people will follow reluctantly. They follow because they fear something bad will happen if they don’t. A second method involves the use of love and the showing of kindness and respect.
Here’s the rub. If you use the first method, don’t be surprised when your so-called followers plot against you and eventually rebel. If you use the second, you will win devotees forever. They will gladly follow you everywhere and in all circumstances.
If we apply this truism to the institution of marriage, it is far more likely that your partner will stay with you through better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death do you part.
Furthermore, your loved one will not feel compelled to follow. She will follow because she wants to.
The message is simple. We get from others what we give to them. On the one hand, this should not be surprising. It passes the commonsense test. On the other, there’s something paradoxical here. Through the act of giving something away, one gets more in return. One grows full as one empties herself. One becomes more powerful the less one exerts power over others. Love, in fact, is the secret.
Love strengthens. Love empowers. Love is magic because it makes all things possible.
This belief informs my politics. It guides my daily interactions with others. Am I always the perfect loving person? No, I often fail. When I do, I remind myself what matters and try again.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.