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The Art of Wordly Wisdom

The Writings of Baltisar Gracian

Baltisar Gracian was born in Spain 1599 He was a Jesuit priest who was considered a genius by notable figures of his time.Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhaur to name but two, found great inspiration in his writings. Personally I have never been interested in philosophical writing's. But when I read some of the following quotes I did enjoy and understand some of them. I have placed them on this site as, perhaps, an introduction to others so they may to, perhaps, gain some insight. Never compete with someone who has nothing to lose. 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. In all matters, keep something in reserve. You'll preserve your usefulness. Don't use all your talents or deploy all your strength at all times. Even in knowledge hold something back: you will double your perfections. There must always be something you can use in a pinch. An opportune rescue is valued and honored more than a bold attack. Prudence always steers a safe course. In this sense also we can believe the piquant paradox: the half is much more than the whole. Always deal with people of principle. Favor them and win their favor. Their very rectitude ensures they will treat you well even when they oppose you, for they act like who they are, and it is better to fight with good-minded people than to conquer the bad. There is no way to get along with villainy, for it feels no obligation to behave rightly. This is why there is not true friendship among villains, and their fine words cannot be trusted; for they do not spring from honor. Avoid the person who has no honor, for if he esteems not honor, he esteems not virtue. And honor is the throne of integrity. Quit while you're ahead. All the best gamblers do. A fine retreat matters as much as a stylish attack. As soon as they are enough -- even when they are many -- cash in your deeds. A long run of good fortune is always suspicious. You're safer when good luck alternates with bad, and, besides, that makes for bittersweet enjoyment. When luck comes racing in on us, it is more likely to slip and smash everything to pieces. Sometimes Lady Luck compensates us, trading intensity for duration. She grows tired when she has to carry someone on her back for a long time. Make your reputation and keep it. We enjoy it on loan from Fame. It is expensive, for it is born from eminence, which is as rare as mediocrity is common. Once attained, it is easily kept. It confers many an obligation, performs many a deed. It is a sort of majesty when it turns into veneration, through the sublimity of its origin and sphere of action. Reputations based on substance are the ones that have always endured. Know how to use your enemies. Grasp things not by the blade, which will harm you, but by the hilt, which will defend you. The same applies to emulation. The wise person finds enemies more useful than the fool does friends. Malevolence often levels the mountains of difficulty that favor made fearful. Many owe their greatness to their enemies. Flattery is fiercer than hatred, for hatred corrects the faults flattery had disguised. The prudent man makes a mirror out of the evil eye of others, and it is more truthful than that of affection, and helps him reduce his defects or emend them. One grows very cautious when living across the border from malevolent rivals. Words and deeds make a perfect man. Speak what is very good, do what is very honorable. The first shows a perfect head, the second a perfect heart, and both arise in a superior spirit. Words are the shadows of deeds. Words are female, and deeds are male. Better to be celebrated than to celebrate others; it is easy to speak and difficult to act. Deeds are the substance of life, and wise sayings the adornment. Eminence endures in deeds but perishes in words. Actions are the fruit of prudent reflection. Words are wise, deeds are mighty. Keep changing your style of doing things. Vary your methods. This will confuse people, especially your rivals, and awaken their curiosity and attention. If you always act on your first intention, others will foresee it and thwart it. It is easy to kill the bird that flies in a straight line, but not one that changes its line of flight. Don't always act on your second intention either; do something twice, and others will discover the ruse. Malice is read to pounce on you; you need a good deal of subtlety to outwit it. The consummate player never moves the piece his opponent expects him to, and, less still. the piece he wants him to move. Distinguish the man of words from the man of deeds. It is a subtle distinction, like the distinction between the friend who values you for yourself and the one who values your position. Bad words, even without bad deeds, are bad enough. But it is even worse, when you have no bad words, to have bad deeds. One cannot eat words (mere wind) or live on courtesy (polite deceit). To catch birds with mirrors is a perfect snare. Only the vain are satisfied with wind. To retain their worth, words must be backed up with deeds. Trees which give no fruit, only leaves, usually have no heart and pith. One must know which are profitable and which serve only for shade. With rivals, and as a matter of decency with others, select your words with caution. Sharp words make more wounds than surgeons can heal. There is always time to add a word, but none in which to take one back. Speak, therefore, as in a testament, for the fewer the words, the fewer the consequences. Know that whatever words you speak, you will also hear, for the wind does not blow in only one direction. There are those who do not spare opinions, for they cost nothing. So they think, until they are forced to swallow what has been levied by someone else. The astute in business use soft words and hard arguments, for neither a word nor a stone let go can be called back. Know your major defect. Every talent is balanced by fault, and if you give in to it, it will govern you like a tyrant. You can begin to overthrow it by paying heed to it: begin to conquer it by identifying it. Pay it the same attention as those who reproach you for it. To master yourself, you must reflect upon yourself. Once this imperfection has surrendered, all others will follow Excerpts from The Art of Wordly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian Published by Bantam Doubleday Dell
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The Art of Wordly

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