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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gracian Balthazar

I came across a book by Gracian Balthazar, a Jesuit Priest from the 17th century. He is well known in Europe for his style of writing and has influenced great thinkers such as  Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. He published his first book, which was a novel called Criticon or Faultfinder, without permission from his superiors. He was therefore exiled. The book he is well-known for is called OrĂ¡culo manual y arte de prudencia (A Manual of the Art of Discretion) and  known in the English literature as The Art of Worldly Wisdom.

The style is simple and unique. He gives common sense advice on all aspects of human conduct in the form of a simple statement first followed by a very brief explanation. When I read the book I could not help comparing it to Vidura Nithi.  

Here are a few examples from Gracian’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom. I hope you will read this essay and follow it up with the blog on Vidura Nithi (see my blog on Vidura Nithi from September 15, 2011).

“Make haste slowly”
“What is done immediately is undone just as fast, but what must last an eternity takes that long to do”
“Adapt to those around you”
“.....what matters is not being applauded when you arrive for that is common; but being missed when you leave. Rare are those who are still wanted”
‘Some people would rather be first in the second than being second in the first”
“No and Yes are short words requiring long thought”
“Self correction starts with self knowledge”
“Ears are the backdoors of truth and the front door of deceit”
“Truth is more often seen than heard”
Be” neither all bad nor all good”
“Carry right too far and it becomes wrong”
“Feel with the few; speak with the many”
“Better to be intensive than be extensive”
“Be excessive in your perfections but moderate in showing them”
“Allow yourself to be known, not comprehended”
One does not live by following one opinion, one custom or one century
“Look deep inside”
“Let choice rule and not chance”
“Friendship has the three qualities of anything good: unity, goodness and truth”
“Neither say what you will do nor do what you have said” (puzzling)
“Not all truths can be spoken, some should be silenced for your own sake; or others for the sake of someone else”
“Do not lie; but do not tell the whole truth”
“Fools are stubborn and stubborns are fools... Even when you are right, it is good to make concessions”
“Want the best but expect the worst, so as to accept any outcome with equanimity”
“Adjust your imaginations to reality”
“Do not surrender to the first impressions. Some people marry the first information they receive and turn what comes later into concubines”
“Spend the first act with the dead (authors); the second with the living and the third act entirely belongs to you”
“Do not be obsessed with the latest”
“If you are prudent you will understand that people seek you not for your own sake but for their own”
“Arrows go through the body; bad words through the soul”
“Understand the character of the people you are dealing with in order to penetrate their intentions”
“Row with the current but do not lose your dignity”
“Do not call attention to yourself”
“Mind your own business”
“Do not act when moved by passion ... because passion always sends reason into exile”
Three things make one blessed:  virtues, wisdom and prudence”

Reference: The Art of Worldly Wisdom – A Pocket Oracle by Gracian Balthazar Translated by   Christopher Maurer.  Currency and Doubleday Publishers, New York 1991