Tag Archives: Pain

Who exactly is in charge here? Part 11 H (OR I love the pleasure and will take the pain.)

 [This is the 18th & final post in a series abstracted from Jefferson’s famous “My Head and My Heart” dialogue written to Maria Cosway. This is the end of Heart’s final reply.]

Heart: We are not immortal ourselves, my friend; how can we expect our enjoyments to be so? We have no rose without its thorn; no pleasure without alloy … True, this condition [Maria’s absence] is pressing cruelly on me at this moment. I feel more fit for death than life. But when I look back on the pleasures … they were worth the price I am paying … Hope is sweeter than despair ..

Know then, my friend (Head), that I have taken these good people into my bosom … that I love them, & will continue to love them through life: that if fortune should dispose them on one side the globe, & me on the other, my affections shall pervade its whole mass to reach them. Knowing then my determination, attempt not to disturb it …”
To Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Faithful leaders know “hope is sweeter than despair.”
Jefferson acknowledged that life brings both pleasure and pain, sometimes arising from the same event. If he enjoyed happiness, he was prepared to accept any sadness that might follow. It was part of life.

He concluded his internal dialogue by affirming undying love for his friends, even though he was suffering in their absence. No matter how far away they were, his affections would reach them. He instructed his Head not to bother him about it any longer.

With the Head & Heart dialogue over, he addressed Maria Cosway directly, promising shorter letters but inviting longer ones from her. Even if she wrote one “as long as the bible,” it would be “short to me.” He ended with this personal assessment, “As to myself my health is good, except my wrist which mends slowly, & my mind which mends not at all, but broods constantly over your departure.”

Jefferson and Cosway saw one another the following year, but the infatuation of their first meeting had faded. They corresponded throughout their lives. Cosway died in 1838, at the age of 78, a dozen years after Jefferson’s death.

Thomas Jefferson will bring pleasure and no pain to your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Who exactly is in charge here? Part 10 (OR Is life only a calculated balancing act?)

[This is the “Head” portion only of the 10th and final interchange in Jefferson’s internal dialog between his head and his heart, anguishing over Maria Cosway’s departure.]

Head … Everything in this world is a matter of calculation … Put into one scale the pleasures which any object may offer; but put fairly into the other the pains which are to follow, & see which preponderates … The art of life is the art of avoiding pain: & he is the best pilot who steers clearest of the rocks & shoals with which he is beset …

Our own share of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of another? Is there so little gall poured into our cup that we must needs help to drink that of our neighbor? A friend dies or leaves us: we feel as if a limb was cut off. He is sick: we must watch over him, & participate of his pains. His fortune is shipwrecked; ours must be laid under contribution. He loses a child, a parent, or a partner: we must mourn the loss as if it were our own.
To Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Beware the leader whose choices are only the paths of least resistance.
This final interchange is by far the longest of the ten, comprising nearly half of the letter. I cannot do justice to it in one post. Jefferson’s Head will get this one post, edited to about 1/4 of what he wrote. Heart’s response was more twice as long and will become the subject of multiple posts.

Head advises caution in all things, always weighing pluses and minuses, with the goal of avoiding pain. Life deals each person enough disappointment of their own. No point in looking for more or helping bear others’ grief.
In an omitted portion, Head commends intellectual pursuits, for no one can take away the pleasures gained there. Those allow one to ride above the “bustle & tumult of society,” occupied by those who are too much guided by their emotions.

The complete Thomas Jefferson, head AND heart, will inspire your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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