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The book is for for those who crave substance over image. While relatively unheard of today, the book was imitated by La Rochefoucauld, cherished by Friedrich Nietzsche, and translated into German by Arthur Schopenhauer. Never outshine the master, something Robert Greene echoes. Superiority is always odious, especially to superiors and sovereigns. The common sort of advantages can be cautiously hidden, as beauty is hidden with a touch of artful neglect.
Most people do not mind being surpassed in good fortune, character, or temperament, but no one, especially not a sovereign, likes to be surpassed in intelligence. Sovereigns want to be so in what is most important. Princes like to be helped, but not surpassed. When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, not of the light he was unable to see.
It is the stars who teach us this subtlety. They are brilliant sons, but they never dare to outshine the sun. You might not be pre-disposed in life with the best genes, but you can nonetheless make the most of them by applying yourself. Application and capacity. Eminence requires both. When both are present, eminence outdoes itself.
Work makes worth. The key to happiness is low expectations, so make sure to keep the expectations of those around you in check. What is highly praised seldom measures up to expectation. Reality never catches up to imagination. It is easy to imagine something is perfect, and difficult to achieve it. Imagination marries desire, and conceives much more than things really are. No matter how excellent something is, it never satisfies our preconceptions. The imagination feels cheated, and excellence leads more often to disappointment than to admiration.
Hope is a great falsifier. Let good judgment bridle her, so that enjoyment will surpass desire. We are much better off when reality surpasses our expectations, and something turns out better than we thought it would.
Good fortune has its rules, and to the wise not everything depends upon chance. Fortune is helped along by effort. You must know how to get inside the other person. Each will has its own special object of delight; they vary according to taste. Everyone idolizes something. Some want to be well thought of, others idolize profit, and most people idolize pleasure.
The trick is to identify the idols that can set people in motion. Usually it is something low, for the unruly outnumber the well ruled. There are certain inessential activities—moths of precious time—and it is worse to busy yourself with the trivial than to do nothing. All excess is a vice, especially in your dealings with others. With this judicious moderation you will stay in the good graces of others and keep their esteem; and propriety, which is precious, will not be worn away.
Retain your freedom to care passionately about the best, and never testify against your own good taste. Diligence is quick to carry out what intelligence has lingered over. Fools are fond of hurry: they take no heed of obstacles and act incautiously.
The wise usually fail through hesitation. Fools stop at nothing, the wise at everything. Sometimes things are judged correctly but go wrong out of inefficiency and neglect. Readiness is the mother of luck. It is a great deed to leave nothing for the morrow. A lofty motto: make haste slowly. If the person doing something suspects he will fail, it will be evident to the person watching, even more so when he is a rival. It is dangerous to undertake something when you doubt its wisdom.
It would be safer not to act at all. Prudence refuses to deal in probability: it always walks under the midday sun of reason. How can something turn out well when caution started to condemn it the moment it was conceived? Some take nothing into account, and others want to account for everything. They are always talking importance, always taking things too seriously, turning them into debate and mystery. Few bothersome things are important enough to bother with.
It is folly to take to heart what you should turn your back on. Many things that were something are nothing if left alone, and others that were nothing turn into much because we pay attention to them.
In the beginning it is easy to put an end to problems, but not later. Sometimes the cure causes the disease.
While I wish the world worked in another way, one of the great lessons of politics is that optics matter. Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem.
To excel and to know how to show it is to excel twice. What is invisible might as well not exist. Reason itself is not venerated when it does not wear a reasonable face. Those easily duped outnumber the prudent.
Deceit reigns, and things are judged from without, and are seldom what they seem. A fine exterior is the best recommendation of inner perfection. Take the pulse of the business at hand. Many see the trees but not the forest, or bark up the wrong tree, speaking endlessly, reasoning uselessly, without going to the pith of the matter.
They go round and round, tiring themselves and us, and never get to what is important. This happens to people with confused minds who do not know how to clear away the brambles.
They waste time and patience on what it would be better to leave alone, and later there is no time for what they left. Let nature take its course, and morality. The wise physician knows when to prescribe and when not to, and sometimes it takes skill not to apply remedies.
Throwing up your hands is sometimes a good way to put down vulgar storms. If you bow to time for the present, you will conquer in the future. It takes little to muddy a stream. There is no better remedy for disorder than to leave it alone to correct itself. The wise are the least tolerant, for learning has diminished their patience.
Wide knowledge is hard to please. Epictetus tells us that the most important rule for living lies in knowing how to bear all things: to this he reduced half of wisdom. To tolerate foolishness much patience is needed. Sometimes we suffer most from those we most depend upon, and this helps us conquer ourselves. Patience leads to an inestimable inner peace, which is bliss on earth. And the person who does not know how to put up with others should retire into himself, if indeed he can suffer even himself.
The struggle will be unequal. One of the contestants enters the fray unencumbered, for he has already lost everything, even his shame. He has cast off everything, has nothing further to lose, and throws himself headlong into all sorts of insolence.
Never risk your precious reputation on such a person. It took many years to win it, and it can be lost in a moment, on something far from momentous. One breath of scandal freezes much honorable sweat. The righteous person knows how much is at stake. He knows what can damage his reputation, and, because he commits himself prudently, he proceeds slowly, so that prudence has ample time to retreat. Not even if he triumphs will he win back what he lost by exposing himself to the risk of losing.
Think about possibilities and probabilities, not what you would do. The fool never does what the prudent person thinks he will, for he cannot understand that it is to his advantage.
Nor will he do it if he is wise, for he will want to dissimulate his intent, which you may have discovered and planned for. Examine both sides of things; go back and forth between them. Try to remain impartial. Nothing requires more skill than the truth, which is like a letting of blood from the heart.
The Art Of Worldly Wisdom
A lovely book of aphoristic wisdom. It echoes of the stoics. And when you explain, be not too explicit, just as you do not expose your inmost thoughts in ordinary intercourse. Cautious silence is the holy of holies of worldly wisdom. A resolution declared is never highly thought of; it only leaves room for criticism. To keep them on the threshold of hope is diplomatic, to trust to their gratitude boorish; hope has a good memory, gratitude a bad one.
Baltasar Gracián and The Art of Worldly Wisdom
The book is for for those who crave substance over image. While relatively unheard of today, the book was imitated by La Rochefoucauld, cherished by Friedrich Nietzsche, and translated into German by Arthur Schopenhauer. Never outshine the master, something Robert Greene echoes. Superiority is always odious, especially to superiors and sovereigns. The common sort of advantages can be cautiously hidden, as beauty is hidden with a touch of artful neglect. Most people do not mind being surpassed in good fortune, character, or temperament, but no one, especially not a sovereign, likes to be surpassed in intelligence. Sovereigns want to be so in what is most important.
The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian
This perenially popular book of advice on how to achieve personal and professional success is valued for its timeless insights on how to make one's way in the world. Written in the seventeenth century by a Spanish Jesuit scholar, the teachings are strikingly modern in tone and address universal concerns such as friendship, morality, effective leadership, and how to manage one's emotions. The Art of Worldly Wisdom is for anyone seeking to combine ethical behavior with worldly success. Barnstone, a noted translator, critic, and poet, explores Gracian's background and places him within his historical and literary context. Our Lists.
The Art of Worldly Wisdom