16th century blogging

While browsing an estate sale last weekend I came across a small book entitled “The Art of Wordly Wisdom,” a collection of aphorisms from the works of Baltasar Gracian (Martin Fischer translation). How could I pass on all that when it was only a buck?



Gracian, a Jesuit scholar and advisor to the royal court, was frequently on the outs with both his order and the court and eventually was imprisoned and had his books banned. The book I picked up consists of brief excerpts from his writings that can be read at random. Here are a couple:



Hold to nothing too violently. Every fool stands convinced, and everyone convinced is a fool, and the faultier a man’s judgement, the firmer his conviction; even with proof on your side, it is well to make concession, for your reasons are known and your gentlemanliness is recognized; more is lost in contention than can be gained in consummation; for such does not defend the truth, but only exhibits bad manner; blockheads are difficult or impossible of conversion; for when conviction is joined to obstinacy, both are indissolubly married to stupidity. Inflexibility should lie in the will, and not in the judgement. Yet there be exceptions when you may not yield without danger of being twice conquered; first in your decision and then in its execution.



Sounds like a case for being a moderate, but I like the part about “inflexibility should lie in the will and not in the judgement”, which to me means we should hold fast to principle over politics, especially since there are “exceptions” such as mentioned in the last line above. These exceptions would no doubt include the following:

The world is in chaos. Right dealing is finished and truth is held the liar; good friends are few; good service is underpaid, poor service is overpaid. Whole nations are committed to evil dealings; with one you fear insecurity, with another, inconsistency, with a third, treason; wherefore, let this bad faith of others serve you, not as an example, but as warning. The peril of the situation lies in the unhinging of your own integrity: accepting less than your best, being overly tolerant of stupidity, forgiving incompetence, fraternizing with the nonspiritual. The man of principle never forgets what he is, because he clearly sees what the others are.



Go here for a brief biography of Gracian.

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