In 1786, Thomas Jefferson penned a letter to Maria Cosway entitled “Dialogue Between My Head and My Heart”. Jefferson, whose wife had passed away some four years earlier had fallen madly in love with an English girl – Maria Cosway. Maria however, was married. After a short time together in Paris, France, Maria left to return to England and Jefferson prepared to return to America, but not before he wrote this letter to Maria.
Here is an offering of his dialogue:
Heart: I am indeed the most wretched of all earthly beings. Overwhelmed with grief…I would willingly meet whatever catastrophe should leave me no more to feel or to fear.
Head: These are the eternal consequences of your warmth and precipitation. This is one of the scrapes into which you are ever leading us. You confess your follies indeed: but still you hug and cherish them, and no reformation can be hoped, where there is no repentance…Thou art the most incorrigible of all the beings that ever sinned! I reminded you of the follies of the first day, intending to deduce from thence some useful lessons for you, but instead of listening to these, you kindle at the recollection, you retrace the whole series with a fondness which shews you want nothing but the opportunity to act it over again. I often told you during its course that you were imprudently engaging your affections under circumstances that must cost you a great deal of pain: …that the lady had moreover qualities and accomplishments, belonging to her sex, which might form a chapter apart for her; such as music, modesty, beauty, and that softness of disposition which is the ornament of her sex and charm of ours. But that all these considerations would increase the pang of separation…
In addition to the beauty of Jefferson’s prose are the lessons to which it offers. Truly we are creatures of rationalization – what we see, we want and even when we recognize the sinfulness we still “hug and cherish them”. Certainly we are often deceived but we also often play a major role in the deception because that, in fact, is what we want. But, does listening to our Head, or our conscience or for that matter Jiminy Cricket solve the dilemma for us? Or, is our heart so desperately wicked that something supernatural is needed to allow us to overcome our human condition?
In fact, Jeremiah 17:9 states exactly that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Can we not then listen to our Head to get us out of this mess? or is that in effect human efforts or works which we witness time and time again, does not work. As a compliment to our desperately wicked hearts is the world, the world of desires and opportunities. As stated in 1st John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
Hopeless? but wait, out of the hopelessness of 1st John’s statement comes the promise of hope – “whoever does the will of God lives forever”. How does one overcome the world? 1st John 5:4 gives the answer “…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
Is there not, even now, a dialogue going on within you?