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Three Maxims from Baltasar Gracián’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom

View all 5 comments. Aug 24, Nick rated it it was amazing. This is one of the great books of wisdom, dispensed in brief paragraphs with headings like "better to be intensive than extensive," and "reserve is the seal of talent. You need to be ready for it to throw something unfair, unexpected, or unpleasant back at you. It's perhaps comforting to know that the book was written years ago, a This is one of the great books of wisdom, dispensed in brief paragraphs with headings like "better to be intensive than extensive," and "reserve is the seal of talent.

It's perhaps comforting to know that the book was written years ago, and the world is still pretty much the same now as it was then. Others argue the opposite. Well-spent leisure is worth more than work. We have nothing of our own but time. Gracian's Art of Worldly Wisdom is a collection of maxims containing excellent, practical advice; very Senecan, and, at times, Machiavellian in sentiment but much more "Know a little more and live a little less.

Gracian's Art of Worldly Wisdom is a collection of 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 , there is an impressive amount of quality. 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. Jan 08, J. The slim Penguin volume is beautifully put together and if I can get even ten of these guidelines to being a better person straight this year it will be success. As it stands, the end of ended on a pretty turbulent note for me and only in the past day or two have I been piecing myself together to saner grounds. This is a great meditation on how to live simply, wisely. Something i aphorisms over years old by Spanish writer Gracian, born four years after the release of Quixote, vol 1.

Something in here for everyone, from saintly grandmothers to the most outrageous nihilist, probably a little more for the latter. Yet the struggle for the down and out herein to believe in the wisdom would make it the more worthwhile text. These days would be one of millions of Self-Help books, Gracian writing before a time for that kind of Market.

Here is just some great, condensed advice, from what I've read spot-on. Great translation by one Jeremy Robbins, a master on Spanish Baroque culture. One which would be on my Currently Reading shelf for a long, long time, if I didn't plan to tuck it away and just read a passage or two every so often. Reading ten, slowly, in a row started to remind me of my lesser qualities, the voluminous nature of them.

Will pick up again when feeling a little better about myself. Update: Glad to have caught a mint condition copy out of the corner of my eye at the bookstore today. A necessity. Feb 27, Philippe Malzieu rated it it was amazing. It did not respect many thing. He had the arrogance of those which know their talent.

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He published his books without authorizations. His visions sour and cynical terrified his superiors. I was very mechant with Macchiavel by advising you to substitute Gracian to him. The form will undoubtedly appear less formal to you, more futile. But at the bottom it is a fine analysis of the social reports and way to evolve in society.

It is t "The contempt is the most subtle form of revenge" Gracian was Jesuit. It is the book of someone which mixed with the power without practising it like Macchiavel and which knew to keep cold blood. Mar 19, Melina rated it it was amazing Shelves: inspirational , non-fiction , books-with-a-profound-message , my-all-time-favorites.

This book can not be over-estimated. I use this book the way others refer to the bible. I DO also read the Bible, The Qu'ran and other religous books as well However, the advice in this little book is invaluable. There are days when I am troubled and I will meditate on the problem, run my thumb over the pages and pick a random spot and it never fails to deliver some sage and relevant advice.

I wish I would have had this book in high school! I think it should be on everyone's essential reading list. Although these condensed insights and suggestions come down to us from almost years ago, their relevance to our experience today is striking and proves the depth of these maxims.

The famous philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer translated this about years ago and called it "a book made for constant use" and recommended it as "a companion for life. Jan 20, Fee Scott rated it it was amazing. I always believe if you want to truly know, find the inspirations and mentors of the wise. I truly love this book, could be s challengings if you're not into classic literature, but for me, one of the best books I've ever read.

Very applicable and timeless wisdom. Jul 17, Gregorycox rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: everyone! Shelves: booksisuggest. Excellent series of lessons that people from all walk's of life can enjoy and learn from. Very insightful and thought provoking. Very easy read. May 07, Erdogan Cicek rated it really liked it. The book is like a social version of "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu and it advises to approach to all events and preventing from human-relational problems by wisdom and intelligence.. Jan 29, Quang Nguyen added it.

Something is probably wrong with the translation current Kindle edition on Amazon. Edit: Turned out I bought the one with the worst translation. View all 3 comments. May 29, Mike rated it it was ok. So I decided on this small handbook of paragraph-long aphorisms. Each paragraph contained a string of one-sentence aphorisms that give the appearance of world-weary wisdom to mask their overgeneralization. Some were so astonishingly manipulative that I felt I were reading a handbook for sociopaths. I struggled through to the end, reading a few per day.

Normally I read books of aphorisms slowly in order to savor each one. I read this book slowly because it was such a painful experience. One of the best books about, for lack of a better expression, how life and the world work, the importance of image and perception and being smart in general. Centuries later we see people, society and their perception and judgment didn't really change that much at all. Better yet it's written, how can I say, positively, without the cynicism of say, The Prince or other books who try to do the same.

I thought this was a very good book. It helped me learn a lot about my self this summer. I recommend this book highly. I changed into a wiser person through this book. A quote that I remember that stuck out to me was that if you hurt your finger it will hit things more than the others. Protect the ones that need care. Jan 18, Henrik Haapala rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. For the rude, the stubborn, the vain, and for all sorts of fools. Prescence diminishes fame, absence enlarges it. The absent person who was thought a lion turns into a mouse - ridiculous offspring of the mountain - when present.

Gifts lose their sheen when they are handled: one sees the outer bark and not the spiritual pith. Imagination travels faster than sight. Deceit comes in through the ears, but usually leaves through the eyes. The person who retires into himself, into the center of his reputation, preserves his good name.

Even the Phoenix used absence to preserve its dignity and to turn desire into esteem. Not confusedly, in the rush of events, but with foresight and judgment. Life is painful without a rest, like a long day's journey without an inn. What makes life pleasant is a variety of learning. For a beautiful life, spend the first act in conversation with the dead: we are born to know and to know ourselves, and books turn us faithfully into people.

Spend the second act with the living: behold all that is good in the world. Not all things are found in one region. In distributing the dowry, the universal Father sometimes gave wealth to his ugliest daughter. The third act belongs entirely to you: to philosophize is the highest delight of all. There are examples of greatness, living texts of renown. Let each person choose the first in his field, not so much to follow him as to surpass them.

Alexander cried at the tomb of Achilles, not for Achilles but for himself, for unlike Achilles, he had not yet been born to fame. Nothing makes the spirit so ambitious as the trumpet of someone else's fame. It frightens away envy and encourages noble deeds.


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It takes more to make one sage today than it did to make the seven of Greece. And you need more resources to deal with a single person these days than with an entire nation in times past. They are a second being. To a friend, all friends are good and wise. When you are with them, all turns out well. You are worth as much as others want you to be and say you are, and the way to their mouths lies through their hearts.

Nothing bewitches like service to others, and the best way to win friends is to act like one. The most and best we have depends on others. You must live either with friends or with enemies. Win one each day, if not as a confidant, at least as a follower. Choose well and some will remain whom you can trust. Some people do everything to begin and nothing to end.

Fickle characters, they start but don't persist. They never win praise because they carry on but don't carry through. To them everything is over before it ends. The Spaniard is known for his impatience, as the Belgian for his patience. The latter finishes things, the former finishes them off; he sweats until he has conquered difficulty, is content to conquer, but doesn't know how to carry through on his victory. He proves that he can but doesn't want to. This is always a defect: it shows either inconstancy or having rashly attempted the impossible. What is worth doing is worth finishing.

If it isn't worth finishing, why begin at all? The wise don't merely stalk their prey, the make the kill. In the summer it is wise to provide for winter, and it is easier to do so.


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  • Favors are less expensive, and friendships abound. It is good to save up for a rainy day: adversity is expensive and all is lacking. Keep a following of friends and grateful people; someday you will value what now seems unimportant. Villainy has no friends in prosperity because it refuses to recognize them. In adversity it is the other way around. These are the elements of greatness.

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    Because they are immortal they bestow immortality. Each is as much as he knows, and the wise can do anything. A person without knowledge is in a world without light. Wisdom and strength are the eyes and hands. Knowledge without courage is sterile. You thereby double your life. One must not depend on one thing or trust to only one resource, however preeminent. Everything should be kept double, especially the causes of success, of favor, or of esteem. Thus as nature gives us in duplicate the most important of our limbs and those most exposed to risk, so art should deal with the qualities on which we depend for success.

    All victories breed hate, and that over your superior is foolish or fatal. Baltasar Gracian's great masterwork is the only book I can say with absolute certainty has changed my life. By some genius, Gracian instructs one in the ways of temperance, fortitude, prudence, and charity, while at the same time instilling a thorough and unyielding appreciation for man's intractable selfishness. Dec 14, Andrew added it Shelves: 16cc-nonfiction , unclassifiable-nonfiction. The aphorisms aren't all that interesting-- pretty standard stuff, really, never play all your cards up front, keep your allies close, the sort of thing that the Don Drapers of the world hold onto.

    I have no doubt that in the religiously and politically tumultuous world of Golden Age Spain, it was shockingly original and uniquely pragmatic. Wisdom of living years ago. The basis that got rinsed and repeated in numerous best-selling books. However, still a good read as it is the original content. Dec 06, Marcos Miguel Navarro rated it it was amazing.

    Good book, that continues giving advice to prosper in a company.

    Feb 18, Jason Schwartzman rated it liked it. Apr 08, David rated it it was amazing. The art of improving yourself. In short, "be a saint". Oct 05, Jude added it. I refer back to this book often. It's one that you never want to part with once you own it. Timeless advice, timeless wisdom. I could write endlessly about what I like about it and what I disagree with, but instead I will simply post my favorite passages here, with just a little bit of commentary!

    Charming book, highly recommended. 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, ta I could write endlessly about what I like about it and what I disagree with, but instead I will simply post my favorite passages here, with just a little bit of commentary! 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.

    Engaging in seasonal activities, events, and festivals of the arts not only fill one with the spirit of happy anticipation, but also give one memories that last a lifetime. Enjoying the art of another in a museum restores my faith in homo sapiens. While jogging, if one of my latterday favorite songs comes on, I feel a natural high and jog faster. And as far as aided beauty is concerned, what would the modeling industry be without cosmetics and photography tricks?

    Aphorisms 1-30

    Life is art indeed. 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 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. It is so easy for most to fall in love with celebrities by mere word of mouth and over-celebration, yet it is just as easy for these innocent brains of the human species to become just as quickly disillusioned when they find out that their objects of worship were only human after all.

    We see this all the time when big-name celebrities overstay the fifteen minutes of fame, novelty-obsessed crowds often turn against the person they themselves built up in their foolishness, and in that same foolishness they continue to obsessively spread that person's name, only in slander, and for any imperfection they can find. Imperfection is never hard to find in humans; let us remember the over-celebrated individual is only human, and as imperfect as the slanderer him or herself.

    Many a time, however, it is latent envy. This quote also applies to the disappointment one feels when one over-anticipates an event or rite of passage, as well to the surprising joy one feels if something is not as bad as one imagined. One may therefore say that it is better to expect the worse, but I have tried that as well, and in most cases that only works as a defeating self-fulfilling prophecy because it injects negativity, and with that dose of poison already in the bloodstream, more often than not it infects the experience that could have otherwise been better had one not prophesied the worst.

    In my own personal behavioral experiments on myself, I find that it is best to be neutral when anticipating an event or situation out of one's control, and simply let the winds take their course. One may judge after the event in retrospect, but never prior to the event, because such is the uncertainty of life itself. 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.

    William Blake is one such person. Painter, print-maker and writer of some of my favorite works, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and The Songs of Innocence and Experience, he was thought insane by his own contemporaries due the unconventional topics and views in his magnificent works. Who would have imagined then that his works would continue to touch souls well into the 21st century?

    I feel he could have benefited from reading Gracian, but who is to say what is benefit and what is happiness, especially to the artist whose sole happiness lies in his work itself? If only he knew how he has inspired and touched so many people, so many centuries later. And to the Blakes of our age, do not fret, my dears! As Gracian said, there might be a time in the future, you just won't know it. My stepdad, who got his BA in Economics, thinks otherwise-- that it is better to enjoy the earthly on earth, rather than build up for a posthumous fame that we can never enjoy.

    I think a balance of both frames of mind characterizes my opinion. 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 specter 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. But what is real? Real is what you think is real, for it is the mind that creates existence,. Whether you are miserable or delightfully enchanted, you are correct. The glass is always half empty and half full.

    Balance is always best, but there some days when it is a release to give in to emotion and either go on a venting tirade, or explode in happiness without reserve, depending on what the situation calls for. Allowing oneself the freedom to exceed at times is as balanced as staying in the perfect middle. It is human, not a sin. Some situations call for such extremity, though as Gracian said, it is wise to keep it in check.

    Just not all the time. But this no longer suffices, for today one must be able to divine in order to escape being deceived. One cannot be understanding if one does not understand. There are diviners of the heart, and lynxes of the intent. The truths for which we most thirst are but half uttered, and only the observant gets them all.

    Three Maxims from Baltasar Gracián’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom – Andrew Lynn

    For he was born 8th January N. As its name indicates, it was one of the Moorish settlements, and nearly one of the most northern. By Gracian's time it had again been Christian and Spanish for many generations, and Gracian himself was of noble birth. For a Spaniard of noble birth only two careers were open, arms and the Church. In the seventeenth century arms had yielded to the cassock, and Balthasar and his three brothers all took orders. Felipe, his eldest, joined the order of St. Francis; the next brother, Pedro, became a Trinitarian during his short life; and the third, Raymundo, became a Carmelite.

    Balthasar himself tells us Agudeza, c. He joined the Company of Jesus in , when in its most flourishing state, after the organising genius of Acquaviva had given solid form to the bold counter-stroke of Loyola to the Protestant Revolution. The Ratio Studiorum was just coming into full force, and Gracian was one of the earliest men in Europe to be educated on the system which has dominated the secondary education of Europe almost down to our own days. This point is of some importance, we shall see, in considering Gracian's chief work.

    Once enrolled among the ranks of the Jesuits, the individual disappears, the Jesuit alone remains. There is scarcely anything to record of Gracian's life except that he was a Jesuit, and engaged in teaching what passes with the Order for philosophy and sacred literature, and became ultimately Rector of the Jesuit College at Tarragona. Gracian appears to have shared his tastes, for Lastanosa mentions him in his description, of his own cabinet.

    A long correspondence with him was once extant and seen by Latassa, who gives the dates and places where the letters were written. From these it would seem that Gracian moved about considerably from Madrid to Zarogoza, and thence to Tarragona. From another source we learn that Philip III. He preached, and his sermons were popular. In short, a life of prudent prosperity came to an end when Balthasar Gracian, Rector of the Jesuit College at Tarragona, died there 6th December , at the age of nearly fifty-eight years.

    Of Gracian's works there is perhaps more to say even while leaving for separate consideration that one which is here presented to the English reader and forms his chief claim to attention. Spanish literature was passing into its period of swagger, a period that came to all literatures of modern Europe after the training in classics had given afresh the sense of style. The characteristic of this period in a literature is suitably enough the appearance of "conceits" or elaborate and far-fetched figures of speech. The process began with Antonia Guevara, author of El Libro Aureo, from which, according to some, the English form of the disease known as Euphuism was derived.

    But it received a further impetus from the success of the stilo culto of Gongora in poetry. Gongorism drove "conceit" to its farthest point: artificiality of diction could go no farther in verse: it was only left for Gracian to apply it to prose. He did this for the first time in in his first work, El Heroe. This was published, like most of his other works, by his lifelong friend Lastanosa, and under the name of Lorenzo Gracian, a supposititious brother of Gracian's, who, so far as can be ascertained, never existed.

    The form, however, is so shortened that it would be difficult to recognise the original primores, as they are called, of El Heroe.