Wedding Crashers: Counterpoint vs Harmony

“True love is your soul’s recognition of its counterpoint in another”


One of my favorite movies of all time is Wedding Crashers.  It’s funny, chaotic, irreverent, and… at times… deep (as this clip suggests).

Now…  Whether the line said above is a cheesy one-liner or whether John Beckwith (played by Owen Wilson) really believes those words doesn’t matter.  It hits on an important distinction: counterpoint is not the same as harmony.

As writers from Plato to Shakespeare have said in one way or another: love (The ultimate glue that bonds people together) requires fully developed and  independent people coming together on their own terms.  Without the independence or that individuality that comes from experience, there can be no counterpoint.  It may be codependency or harmony. 

God loves us, but doesn’t allow himself to  control our actions using that love as an excuse to control … we have free will.  Plato says that love/counterpoint is the co-pursuit of the perfect. Shakespear, when comparing the chaos of Romeo and Juliet versus the final scene of The Tempest, suggests that love is the aligning of two peoples mind and body.  All of these examples have participants that can exist independent of each other, but work best together. 
So…

Harmony is the adding of music/voices/elements so that the two are played simultaneously and are independent.  In short, an agreement or accord in sounds.  If music is the harmony of an instrument and that instrument breaks… the music ceases (Plato’s example).


If you have two people singing in beautiful harmony and one stops, harmony stops.  Harmony has codependent elements.  It cannot exists as an independent value.  One can’t be harmonious alone, you must depend on a like element in another to achieve harmony.

Counterpoint is a melody added to an existing one, especially one added to provide harmony while each retains its simultaneous identity.  If you have two people singing in counterpoint and one stops… the other voice retains its independence and its beauty. If two are pursuing the Good and one stops… the other can still pursue the Good (definition of friendship from Aristotle). 

There is a certain tyranny implied in harmony. Harmony suggests dependence and complete unity.

There’s is a certain respect and trust implied in counterpoint. Counterpoint suggests willingness to participate in something meaningful.  Lady Gaga helps us experience counterpoint in the following example…

I suggest that low Nature appreciates harmony because requisite elements must exist for so many aspects of nature to exists.  Take oxygen out and fires die (harmony). Take the jet stream out and tornadoes can’t exist (harmony).  There is no choice for Nature. She is accidental and dumb. 

I think that counterpoint is a more human and humane mixing of elements.  Organizations, movements, and relationships of all shapes and sizes should focus on coutnterpoint and not harmony. It’s vision driven and choice driven.   

Because it does allow for choice… it’s a more difficult way to operate relationships, but it ultimately pays respect to the only thing  (in my opinion) that separates us from the blunt universe that surround us: free will. 

Counterpoint, in the human realm, begs for honesty, respect, and communication. 
In the “coaching” realm, this calls for us to recognize & respect the innate traits in our coaching partners.  It calls for us to bring to the surface, via communication, mutual common ground and a clear co-vision of where the relationship is headed. 

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About Thrasymachus

2013 Northwest ISD teacher of the year, Humanities Texas 2012 Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, and 2011 Outstanding Educator of North Texas Award (North Central Texas College). I'm currently a Regional Digital Learning Consultant with the Education Service Center Region 11 in Ft. Worth, Texas and a college government educator who incorporates philosophy, technology & humor. A student through and through, I walk with my students in their learning. Most importantly, I'm blessed with the 3 most perfect kids eva! I love on them ery day!!!
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