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The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar…
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The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

by Baltasar Gracián

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English (7)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  French (1)  All languages (14)
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"Know a little more and live a little less. Others argue the opposite. Well-spent leisure is worth more than work. We have nothing of our own but time . . . "(245)

One of the first books I remember adding to my "to-read" list many years ago, this was one of the few works that thoroughly exceeded any expectations I may have had.

Gracian's Art of Worldly Wisdom is a collection of 300 maxims containing excellent, practical advice; very Senecan, and, at times, Machiavellian in sentiment (but much more applicable than The Prince.)

Personally, I noted around 50 which I would consider essential to read in their entirety, as well as many, many more containing nuggets of gold; for a collection of 300, there is an impressive amount of quality.

__________
. . . when culture is lacking, perfection remains incomplete. (12)

There's much to know and life is short, and a life without knowledge is not a life. (15)

And if he gives up on people, this is not because he is fickle, but because they have given up on truth. (29)

Never sin against your own good taste. (33)

Truth is for the few; deception is as common as it is vulgar. (43)

To be able to choose, and to choose the best. (51)

Time and I against any other two. (55)

A truly deep mind achieves eternity. (57)

Self-knowledge is the start of self-correction. (69)

Fun must have its place, but seriousness must dominate. (76)

Let your manner be lofty, endeavour to make it sublime. (88)

People with only one concern and only one subject are usually boring. (105)

A good exterior is the best recommendation of a perfect interior. (130)

If one universally accomplished friend is enough to make Rome and the rest of the universe, then be that friend to yourself, and you will be able to live completely on your own. (137)

Whom will you need, if there's no opinion or taste greater than your own? (137)

Deformity of the mind is uglier than that of the body because it goes against divine beauty. (168)

Moderation is necessary even in our desire for knowledge so as not to know things badly. (174)

Take enjoyment slowly and tasks quickly. (174)

Either know, or listen to someone who does. (176)

Stupidity's faults are incurable, for since the ignorant don't know what they are, they don't search for what they lack. (176)

Recognise faults, whatever the approval they enjoy. (186)

Vices might be ennobled, but they are never noble. (186)

Others make it a policy to praise today's mediocrities more than yesterday's marvels. (188)

You should see and hear, but remain silent. (192)

A person has everything who cares nothing about what matters little. (192)

Everyone has too high an opinion of themselves, especially those with least reason to. (194)

To be truly wise, its not enough just to appear to be so, far less to appear so to yourself. (201)

There have been few Senecas . . . (203)

What seems a throwaway comment to the person making it can seem deeply significant to the person who catches and ponders it. (207)

Know how to divide your life wisely, not as things arise, but with foresight and discrimination. (229)

Spend the first part of a fine life in communication with the dead. We are born to know and to know ourselves, and books reliably turn us into people . . . Let the third stage be spent entirely with yourself: the ultimate happiness, to philosophise. (229)

But what is essential must come first and only later, if there's time, what is incidental. (249)

In acquiring knowledge, some start with what is least important, leaving the honourable and useful subjects for when life is at an end. (249)

For knowledge and life, method is essential. (249)

. . . everything should be great and majestic, so that all their actions, and even their words, may be clothes in a transcendent, grandiose majesty. (296)

But good taste flavours everything in life. (298)
( )
  EroticsOfThought | Feb 28, 2018 |
In un mondo sempre più piccolo e globalizzato, la riscoperta del pensiero breve attraverso gli aforismi può servire per leggere al meglio una realtà fatta di tante verità, quante sono le sue facce. Basta la rilettura di un “oraculo” come quello scritto nel seicento dallo scrittore spagnolo Baltasar Graciàn per aiutarci a gestire la caotica vita digitale moderna? Penso di sì, questi aforismi lo provano.

L'oracolo (dal latino oraculum) era un essere o un ente considerato fonte di saggi consigli o di profezie, un'autorità infallibile, solitamente di natura spirituale. Il titolo completo del libro in spagnolo è: “Oraculo manual y arte de prudencia”. Il suo autore, un gesuita spagnolo che fa brillare questa sua opera di intelligenza “machiaveliana”, per il suo sapere pragmatico, quanto mai moderno e originale.

Trecento aforismi che affrontano i problemi della quotidianità dell’esistenza e che a distanza di tanti anni, mantengono la loro naturale sottigliezza morale, tanto ammirata anche da Friedrich Nietzsche e Arthur Schopenhauer. Ho deciso di tradurre gli aforismi dell’ “oracolo” dalla versione inglese raggruppando i post su Google in una apposita cartella.

Ho detto “intelligenza machiavelliana”, il che vuol dire qualcosa che non ha nulla di “machiavellico” o “machiavellismo”, nè tanto meno di “cinico”, come qualcuno potrebbe pensare. Nella sua visione della condizione umana, il gesuita spagnolo Baltasar Graciàn scrive un libro di comportamenti strategici rivolti al sapere, al comportamento e alla ricerca del valore etico della vita. L’obiettivo è quello che mettere in condizione chi legge di saper muoversi sulle strade del mondo, per conquistarsi un posto con dignità ed onore.

Trecento aforismi, campioni di scrittura per un pensiero breve, affatto superficiale. Tutti gli aforismi, come si sa, sono essenza di pensiero condensato e come tale vanno letti lentamente ed in profondità. Tutto il libro ruota intorno ad una visione dualistica della vita, intesa come lotta tra l’essere e l’apparire. Allora, come oggi, in Spagna come altrove, apparenza e realtà continuano a sfidarsi sulla nostra pelle.

Tra sostanza e immagine, Graciàn consiglia di “fare, ma anche apparire”. Siamo tutti “pecorelle” tra “volpi”, innocenti colombe, facili preda di astuti serpenti. Dobbiamo saper governare noi stessi nei confronti di queste realtà esistenti. Dobbiamo saper dimostrare quello che siamo, non quello che altri vorrebbero che noi fossimo.

Ma chi era Baltasar Graciàn ? (1601-1658). Certamente non un cinico. Fu uno spagnolo e un gesuita che credeva nella perfettibilità dell’essere umano e nella sua capacità di fare il bene per mezzo dell’intelletto e così trionfare sul male. Non pensate che questo prete spagnolo secentesco voglia fare qualcosa di inquisitivo. Dio non viene quasi mai nominato in questo suo libro. La perfezione alla quale pensa Graciàn non ha nulla di rivelazione religiosa, ma si basa sulla capacità dell’uomo di dominare se stesso, le sue emozioni, la sua conoscenza, il suo destino.

Fondamentale l’aforisma 251 per comprendere il senso di questo tipo di scrittura: “Usa mezzi umani come se quelli divini non esistessero; usa mezzi divini come se quelli umani non ci fossero”. C’è una chiara subordinazione dell’etica alla strategia. Per raggiungere la perfezione è necessario che ci si adatti alle circostanze. La parola chiave per comprendere nella corretta maniera la filosofia esistenziale alla quale Graciàn fa riferimento c’è il termine “ desengaño”, noi diciamo “disillusione”, “distacco”. Prendere in controllo le speranze, le illusioni e i disinganni oltre che le paure. Non si tratta di pessimismo oppure di ottimismo, ma di strategia, quella giusta maniera per far fronte alle debolezze proprie e quelle degli altri.

Ma che vita condusse Baltasar Graciàn? Di certo si può dire che non aveva un carattere facile. Una persona abbastanza difficile, come del resto sono tutti gli aragonesi. Anche se il suo “Oraculo” è un inno alla prudenza, non sempre il suo comportamento si attenne a questa norma. Fu in conflitto con il suo ordine, per avere pubblicato scritti senza il loro permesso. Se avesse obbedito, però, forse non avrebbe pubblicato i suoi aforismi e probabilmente noi oggi non conosceremmo il suo pensiero che rimane polemico, stimolante e realista nella sua brevità oltre che incisività.

Tra tesi e antitesi, ellissi e paradossi, densità di significati, giochi di parole ed altre idiosincrasie, Graciàn riesce a parlare della natura umana con intelligenza, spirito, ironia, sottigliezza e saggezza. Per lui, vivere è un’arte. Le strategie estetiche corrispondono a quelle morali. Lui è sempre in collegamento con il lettore, con lui gioca come a carte, lo tiene in sospeso, non gli si concede, non vuole adularlo, usa l’aforisma che non gli impone un sistema, un ordine, una scaletta narrante. Si presentano alla mente del lettore in maniera caotica, disordinatamente, come del resto scorre la vita, a caso, e segue il filo dell’esperienza.

Egli scrive: “E’ facile uccidere l’uccello che vola in maniera lineare, ma non lo è con quello che vola in maniera irregolare”. Così sono i suoi aforismi. Questo non significa che il libro è caotico. Il suo approccio è piuttosto dialettico, perciò contraddittorio, perchè i casi della vita sono, appunto, tali, contraddittori e complementari. Un frammento ci indica come manovrare, un altro come difendersi.

La brevità ha un valore strategico. Sembra quasi anticipare la comunicazione moderna nella sua dinamicità provocatoria ed imprevedibile. Dei trecento aforismi, l’ultimo mi pare il più illuminante ed anche spiazzante: “In una parola, detto in breve: sii un santo. Questo è quanto.” Trecento aforismi per diventare santi: parola di un gesuita, di un realista o di un cinico? Rileggetevi Machiavelli e forse capirete. ( )
  AntonioGallo | Nov 2, 2017 |
This collection of aphorisms rivals the wisdom found in Machiavelli's The Prince or Sun-Tzu's The Art of War. However this is significantly less well-known than the other two.Gracian was a Jesuit scholar who wrote down his observations of those in power. His study of statesmen and potentates demonstrates examples of their ethical behavior and worldly effectiveness. I found the many of the maxims useful insights into a humane way of living and achieving a flourishing life. ( )
  jwhenderson | Dec 14, 2016 |
In a way, I'm glad that I got some of these philosophy books, (what I mean is, that I got some of them, back whenever I got them), although some of them-- like Descartes-- I discarded almost upon opening. (I mean, I was perfectly capable of talking about Descartes 'intelligently' in school-- using Cartesian terms correctly-- but of course in my own home, I could see what a waste it all was.... as though the book itself, when opened, gave off a smell of rotten fish which someone forgot to salt or something.... "To overvalue something is a form of lying." I mean, yeah, like with that video game that I used to think was the best think ever put together by mortal man-- "Wipe this pathetic planet off the face of the galaxy....")

And so, here again I have another one of these 17th-century disappointments.... I mean, I hate to make historical comment, but I honestly only mean it in a sociological way, since so many people are all so much the same-- just as the later 19th century had so much, though of all the wrong things, the 17th century had either nothing, or so much, of nothing.... while the 18th was intolerable a mere 19 times out of 20, that's all, ha!

So, there's that, I suppose.

But at least we have a stupid Spaniard for all those stupid Greeks and Germans.... "We do not destroy religion by destroying superstition." ~ M.T.C. Although we can only guess what the Jesuit would think of my namesake....

{But the fact that Spanish words are vaguely like Latin words will always be a source of endless delight to all thinking people-- although what I really liked (past perfect, hon-hon-hon: I am Swedish!) was something far more obscure than Spanish, although windmill-fighter Spanish, ("It's a ceiling fan." "It's a whirling, five-armed monster!") *is* obscure, but *Catalan*, is minoritarian, and only something that a real elitist would have even *heard* of, and what's even better are those tabels, of equivalent words in Romance and Germanic languages, or better yet, one of those tables where the equivalent words descended from one Latin word, like British imperial way-stations, are maped out in, say, five to seven daughter languages, I used to really love that-- hours and hours of delight, just like cribbage, or German whist, which I've discovered (just today) that you can actually play with yourself, just in case it's easier to cobble together patience, than three friends! ^^}

Anyway. I'll try not to bore you too much.

He wants me to think that he is good for an aphorism, that he, like Nietzsche, has a mind for it, you know, that he has no need for the dross, that he has a sharp mind, and unburdened too, and perhaps with a flash of worldly intuition.... and that he is also wise like Epictetus, ever quiet, and perhaps also sharing a little joke, softly, with his misfortune, without saying hardly anything....

But he is not Nietzsche, and he is not Epictetus, and I actually don't think that he's even so wise as Hoyle. Or, perhaps you would prefer, Wolfgangus Theophilus Amadeus Mozartian. ^^

(Or Mary Bennet, who was wretchedly unhappy because she was unable to play the piano with any kind of skill.... yes, because she could not play the piano and get other people to like her that way, she was, wretchedly unhappy. But.... well, whatever. Who cares. Who cares about that. ^^)

To be honest, this is sorta how I feel about Shakespeare-- imagine what a blessing Shakespeare was to the 17th century! After all, it's not as though *they* could go see "The Magic Flute"!

.... {And anyway, I didn't find any that I liked so well as-- "What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence"!}

{To be honest, I was waiting for him to say, 'Vanity and pride are not the same, although the words are used interchangeably.'}

{.... "Even God does not tame with a whip, but with time." What does that mean? " 'Lie down on the couch.' 'What does that mean?'..... 'The Baltimore County School Board have decided to expel Dexter from the entire public school system.'.... 'That boy needs therapy.'.... 'This is like free therapy. New York State cares.'}

{.... I mean, the guy has a fucking cluttered way of thinking, if you ask me....}

{"One who enters the house of fortune through the gate of pleasure leaves it through the (door) of sorrow.".... "Sometimes a parrot talks.".... "Kavorka, Jerry-- the lure of the animal!"}

{"Mediocrities are not the subject of applause.... Work with good tools...." Even the king of Finland knows that a hearty breakfast is the most important meal of the day.}

{"Good to be a bit vague...." Just bullshit a bit-- it'll be fine....}

(7/10) ( )
  Tullius22 | Nov 20, 2012 |
The Jesuit scholar Balrasar Gracian wrote these aphorisms over three centuries ago. His position allowed him to be a keen observer of many in positions of power. And his writing can be used today as it was in his time in business, politics, and life in general. The author shares his wisdom on how to live a life with others. His writings advise the reader on many of life’s situations and on personal interactions. Whether considered a work on philosophy or behavioral science this book is one which the reader will refer too often. There is no need to read the book straight through from cover to cover but once. For in the back of this volume you will find a list of the aphorisms where you can go to the one that you feel would be appropriate to your situation and help with some valuable insight. ( )
  hermit | May 25, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (32 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gracián, Baltasarprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amelot de La Houssaie, NicolasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Lastanosa, Don Vincencio JuanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frauenstädt, JuliusEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kars, TheoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kasper, FriedlCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maurer, ChristopherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mauser, W.H.Photographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mulder, ToniCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schopenhauer, ArthurTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suni, AnnikkiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tabarelli, HansEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tuulio, TyyniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walton, L. B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walton, L. B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Rarely, in the scale of Fortune,
Stands the fickle tongue at rest.
You must rise or you must sink --
Must be ruler and the winner
Or be slave and be the loser,
Suffer or emerge triumphant,
Be the blade or be the block.
- Goethe
[J. Jacobs tr. (1892)]
Dedication
To the memory of
Edmund Michael Baehr
[M. Fischer tr. (1934?)]
First words
1 - Everything is at its Acme;  especially the art of making one's way in the world.
[tr. Joseph Jacobs (1892)]
Everything today has its point, but the art of making yourself count for something the greatest:  more is demanded to produce one wise man today, than seen formerly;  and more is needed to deal with a single individual in our times, than with a whole people in the past.
[tr. Martin Fischer (1934?)]
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385421311, Hardcover)

The remarkable best-seller -- a long-lost, 300-year-old book of wisdom on how to live successfully yet responsibly in a society governed by self-interest -- as acute as Machiavelli yet as humanistic and scrupulously moral as Marcus Aurelius.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:28 -0400)

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A collection of maxims on wordly behavior observed by a Jesuit scholar 300 years ago.

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