Can courage be taught?
The kinds of relationship that enable it to flourish.
The Fulcrum of Courage, Part 5
10th century European mystics made projections based on analyses of religious texts. Before they made important decisions, they would:
Consider prophesies and events that appeared to affirm their interpretations of scripture.
Consider the meanings of numbers, especially the number 7.
The Holy Roman emperor Otto I (a.k.a. Otto the Great) was more interested in testing beliefs for their practical value. Before he made important decisions, he would:
Assess the dangers.
Consider the worthiness of the causes.
Consider his resources and capabilities.
While studying in Catalonia for 3 years, Gerbert of Aurillac acquired exceptional knowledge of music, mathematics, geometry, and astronomy.
In 970, the Count of Barcelona took him to Rome to meet Pope John XIII.
Gerbert’s thoughtful conversation and understanding of the liberal arts impressed the pope so much, he introduced them both to the emperor.
Otto the Great was 57. Gerbert was 25.
The emperor asked for a demonstration of Gerbert’s mathematical knowledge. Gerbert showed him how to use Arabic numerals.
Otto I immediately understood their practicality.
The emperor thought for a moment. Then he asked Gerbert to tutor his teenage son.
When the emperor’s son was little, and afraid of monsters under the bed, the emperor would play a game with him.
Together, they weighed their options and decided what to do. Then they did whatever they promised, no matter how scary.
When Otto II was 3, they decided his father should look first and report back. It wasn’t long until the boy also wanted to look, but the emperor still had to go first.
When he was 4, they looked at the same time.
When he was 5, Otto II looked first.
It was almost always fun, and the boy fell asleep knowing he was safe.
Otto II was 14 when Gerbert became his tutor.
Their sessions involved lively discussions. Gerbert made learning into a game. He would make a claim, then Otto II would ask questions and try to disprove it.
In a strictly competitive game, rational players only make moves in their own interests. This is how gambling and power struggles work.
When one player wins, the other loses. After every move, the tally of the players’ balances is always 0. Gerbert and Otto II’s sessions were not usually like this.
Human beings are not strictly competitive. If winning is not exclusively at the expense of others, rational people also make moves that benefit everyone in the game.
The tally of balances can be greater than 0. Gerbert and Otto II’s discussions were mostly like this, and they both benefited.
During one of their tutoring sessions, Gerbert realized he lacked training in logic.
When the Archdeacon of Reims, a respected logician, visited Rome, Gerbert went to meet him. Shortly thereafter, Gerbert asked the emperor for permission to study in France under the Archdeacon.
Mastering logic would both expand the scope of his tutoring and improve the quality. Otto II stood to benefit from Gerbert’s proposal, as did the field of mathematics.
The emperor thought for a moment. Then he said yes.
Next: What destroys courage? The nature and meaning of spiritual abuse.