The Art Of Worldy Wisdom

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Post written by Baltasar Gracián & Peter G. James Sinclair.

I was recently introduced to a relatively obscure work entitled The Art Of Worldly Wisdom and as I read it I knew that I had stumbled upon gold.

Written hundreds of years ago it still to this day has a relevance that readily enables the reader to apply this wisdom in the 21st century.

Translated on a number of occasions it does not ask you to build your success on the bodies of other people, but rather eminence and influence are to be achieved through observation and personal refinement.

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, ‘Europe has never produced anything finer or more complicated in matters of moral subtlety.’ Arthur Schopenhauer translated it into German and thought it as ‘a companion for life’.

Here is just a taste of The Art Of Worldy Wisdom.

“Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.”

“A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”

“Never compete with someone who has nothing to lose.”

“The best skill at cards is knowing when to discard.”

“A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.”

“Friendship multiplies the good of life and divides the evil.”

“Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit.”

“It is better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterward.”

“Two kinds of people are good at foreseeing danger: those who have learned at their own expense, and the clever people who learn a great deal at the expense of others.”

“One should cultivate good habits of memory, for it is capable of making existence a Paradise or an Inferno.”

“Oh life, you should never had begun, but since you did, you should never end.”

“Keep the extent of your abilities unknown. The wise man does not allow his knowledge and abilities to be sounded to the bottom, if he desires to be honored at all. He allows you to know them but not to comprehend them. No one must know the extent of his abilities, lest he be disappointed. No one ever has an opportunity of fathoming him entirely. For guesses and doubts about the extent of his talents arouse more veneration than accurate knowledge of them, be they ever so great.”

“The great art of giving consists in this the gift should cost very little and yet be greatly coveted, so that it may be the more highly appreciated.”

“He that has satisfied his thirst turns his back on the well.”

“Life is a warfare against the malice of others.”

“Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way.”

“Great ability develops and reveals itself increasingly with every new assignment.”

“Folly consists not in committing Folly, but in being incapable of concealing it. All men make mistakes, but the wise conceal the blunders they have made, while fools make them public. Reputation depends more on what is hidden than on what is seen. If you can’t be good, be careful.”

“True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island…to find one real friend in a lifetime is a good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.”

“When desire dies, fear is born.”

“Knowledge without courage is sterile.”

The happy are an exception who enjoy innocently their simple happiness.”

“Every fool stands convinced; and everyone convinced is a fool. The faultier a person’s judgment the firmer their convictions.”

“Better mad with the rest of the world than wise alone.”

“Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem. Most things are judged by their jackets.”

“Never do anything when you are in a temper, for you will do everything wrong.”

“Know how to ask. There is nothing more difficult for some people, nor for others, easier.”

“Never exaggerate. It is a matter of great importance to forego superlatives, in part to avoid offending the truth, and in part to avoid cheapening your judgment. Exaggeration wastes distinction and testifies to the paucity of your understanding and taste. Praise excites anticipation and stimulates desire. Afterwards when value does not measure up to price, disappointment turns against the fraud and takes revenge by cheapening both the appraised and the appraiser. For this reason let the prudent go slowly, and err in understatement rather than overstatement. The extraordinary of every kind is always rare, wherefore temper your estimate.”

“Recognize things when they are at their best, in their season, and know how to enjoy them then. The works of nature all amount to a peak of perfection; up to it they wax, beyond it they wane. Only in matters of art have a few gone to the point where they might not be improved. It is the mark of cultivated taste to enjoy everything at its best. But all may not do this, and not all who may, know how. Even the fruits of the spirit have their moment of ripeness, and it is well to recognize this, in order to value it properly and attend to it.”

Say farewell to luck when winning. It is the way of the gamblers of reputation. Quite as important as a gallant advance is a well-planned retreat. Lock up your winnings when they are enough, or when great. Continuous luck is always suspect; more secure is that which changes. Though half bitter and half sweet, it is more satisfying to the taste. The more luck pyramids, the greater the danger of slip and collapse. For luck always compensates her intensity by her brevity. Fortune wearies of carrying anyone long upon her shoulders.”

“Nature and art: The material and the workmanship. There is no beauty unaided, no excellence that does not sink to the barbarous, unless saved by art: It redeems the bad and perfects the good. Because nature commonly forsakes us at her best, take refuge in art. The best in nature is raw without art, and the excellent is lacking if it lacks culture. Without cultivation everyone is a clown and needs polish, fine attributes notwithstanding.”

“Be open to suggestion. No one is so perfect that they may not need advice from time to time.”

“Do not enter where too much is anticipated. It is the misfortune of the over-celebrated that they cannot measure up to excessive expectations. The actual can never attain the imagined: for to think perfection is easy, but to embody it is most difficult. The imagination weds the wish, and together they always conjure up more than reality can furnish. For however great may be a person’s virtues, the will never measure up to what was imagined. When people see themselves cheated in their extravagant anticipations, they turn more quickly to disparagement than to praise. Hope is a great falsifier of the truth; the intelligence put her right by seeing to it that the fruit is superior to its appetite. You will make a better exit when the actual transcends the imagined, and is more than was expected.”

“A person of your century: Great persons are of their time. Not all were born into a period worthy of them, and many so born failed to benefit by it. Some merited a better century, for all that is good does not always triumph. Fashions have their periods and even the greatest virtues, their styles. But the philosopher, being ageless, has one advantage: Should this not prove the right century, many to follow will.”

“Harness the imagination: Sometimes curbing her, sometimes giving her rein, for she is the whole of happiness. She sets to rights even the understanding. She sinks to tyranny, not satisfied with mere faith, but demanding works. Thus she becomes the mistress of life itself. She does so with pleasure or with pain, according to the nonsense presented. She makes people contented or discontented with themselves. By dangling before some nothing but the spectre of their eternal suffering, she becomes the scourge of these fools. To others she shows nothing but fortune and romance, while merrily laughing. Of all this she is capable if not held in check by the wisest of wills.”

“The hosannas of the multitude can never bring satisfaction to the discerning. Yet there exist those chameleons of popularity who find their joy, not in the sweet breath of Apollo, but in the smell of the crowd. And not in mind: Do not be taken in by what are miracles to the populace, for the ignorant do not rise above marvelling. Thus the stupidity of a crowd is lost in admiration, even as the brain of an individual uncovers the trick.”

“True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island… to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.”

“Attempt easy tasks as if they were difficult, and difficult as if they were easy; in the one case that confidence may not fall asleep, in the other that it may not be dismayed.”

Baltasar Gracián y Morales, SJ (January 8, 1601 – December 6, 1658) was a Spanish Jesuit and baroque prose writer and philosopher. He was born in Belmonte, near Calatayud (Aragon). His proto-existentialist writings were lauded by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.  Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia (1647), was translated as The Art of Worldly Wisdom (by Joseph Jacobs, 1892), The Oracle, a Manual of the Art of Discretion (by L.B. Walton), Practical Wisdom for Perilous Times (in selections by J. Leonard Kaye), or The Science of Success and the Art of Prudence, his most famous book, some 300 aphorisms with comments.

photo source: yatinpatel.wordpress.com

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