I’m going to start with a headline relationship that would make Niccolò Machiavelli proud and work my way toward life on Main Street. You remember Machiavelli? That’s the author who wrote “The Prince,” which was first published way back in 1532, about how to manipulate people to survive and use any means available.
Wait, please don’t go. There won’t be a test and that’s the last date I’ll put in this column. Promise.
So, I’m thinking about relationships because of the new and improved dynamic between President Donald Trump and his Best Friend for Now — BFN, anyone? — Sen. Mitch McConnell. After a few tough losses, the Republican leaders seemed testy in their exchanges.
No, no, they said earlier this week, that wasn’t so. They are buddies and they agree on everything. Well, almost everything. According to sources, the senior senator also wants two scoops of ice cream when he visits the White House, but the commander in chief has no intention of changing his ice cream policies, even for his BFN.
Anyway, what brought these two older white men together? Did they talk about what it’s like to be misunderstood? Were they eager to find a friend in Washington, D.C., and did neither of them want to get a dog, as the expression goes?
No, they came together because they need to. It’s so much easier, they decided, to agree and to work together than to disagree. That sounds reasonable, but what would Machiavelli think? I suspect he’d be thrilled. After all, it’s about surviving, learning to fight another day and moving the chess pieces of life around on the board. Fortunately, and I won’t put the date in here because I don’t want to break my promise, chess was invented before “The Prince” was published. If you want to find it, you can look it up on the internet, which is the source of all information and misinformation in the universe. So, Machiavelli would have known about chess and the need to sacrifice the short-term humiliation of needing anyone and the mutually assured long-term gain of having allies in Washington.
OK, so let’s step away from the seat of our democracy and go out into the real world. Why do the rest of us need relationships and what can they do for us?
Are we like ants and bees, who need each other for specialized jobs?
Yes and no. Certainly, I would have a hard time building my own house. I feel as if I have an incompetence allergy to the words “some assembly required.” I am also visual-arts deficient. People offer all kinds of false modesty, saying things like, “I used to ski a little” or “I used to do a bit of singing,” when they almost made the Olympic team and were a few auditions short of starring next to Julie Andrews on Broadway. I, however, am not being modest. If I were responsible for building walls and decorating them, we’d be living in caves and would be staring at uninspiring chalk drawings of woolly mammoths.
So, yes, our individual deficiencies suggest we do need each other. But, maybe, we benefit not just what we get from others.
One of my good friends is in a new relationship. He has always been in decent physical shape. He’s not much of a reader and has shied away from even the shortest of reading assignments. Anyway, he’s dating a woman who is a regular runner and an avid reader. Lo and behold, he recently beamed after completing a half marathon and is happily building his own personal library.
Maybe the best and longest lasting relationships are those that push us to find the best in ourselves. It’s not exactly Machiavelli 101 and it doesn’t require a press conference, but maybe the right relationships are those that help us develop in unexpected ways.