When reading the phrase “acquire grace” in the first sentence of the Epistle Dedicatory to Machiavelli’s “Prince,” I wondered for a while at the nature of my own “love,” and every bad memory regarding a relationship or would-be relationship flooded my skull. With those memories came challenges to my assumption that I might have loved. After all, many have said that love cannot exist unless it is reciprocated, and to add to that slight problem is my knowledge of my incredible selfishness, which seems to take an awful lot for granted and not return any favors to others.
Now if it seems that I’m confusing erotic love and fraternal love, I am – I think the former has to stem from the latter, and I think the highest form of the latter promises unity between any two individuals, as Thought is a unity which comprehends a diversity. To hold a distinction between types of love is to reduce love to the merely practical, and destroy the greatest joys in life for the sake of a numbness that we hope will be a safety (and it isn’t, and just leads to the use of anti-depressants).
I dunno, though, about myself. It seems like I’m always pleading with someone, even myself, like I have this greed that demands favors – a professor of mine on Machiavelli has noted that “grace” isn’t exactly “justice,” or “desert” (see de Alvarez, The Machiavellian Enterprise).
At the same time, while I’m looking around for someone, I’m realizing that maybe the one area I perhaps grew up in is love. I couldn’t possibly have been hurt as badly as I’ve been hurt if I weren’t thinking about what to give, or how to give, sometimes even giving spontaneously. And the few times my words have had an effect, have been powerful because they have been gracious, are times I’m proud of not because of the skill involved, but because of the sentiments I had. Still, I need to check myself here – to be proud of progress is very different than asserting an unimpeachable character, and the latter is something I need to work much harder towards.
What’s funny about our modern world is that to try and “acquire grace” is the mark of the unloving, but to give those graces even to the merely acquisitive is the mark of the most loving.