The Daily Gracián

30.

Don’t make a profession out of discredited occupations. Much less out of delusions, which only bring scorn, not credit. Our whims have founded many sects, and the sensible man must shun them all. There are those with outlandish tastes who espouse everything the wise repudiate; they delight in every peculiarity, and although this makes them widely known, it’s more from ridicule than respect. The circumspect should not draw attention to themselves even in a profession worthy of the wise, much less in ones that make their followers ridiculous. As common disrepute has long identified each of these, they need not be specified here.

29.

A person of integrity. Always on the side of reason, with such tenacity of purpose that neither vulgar passion nor tyrannical violence forces them ever to step over the line of reason. But who will ever be such a phoenix of rectitude? For integrity has few genuine admirers. Many applaud it, but don’t embrace it. Others pursue it until things get tricky; then the insincere disown it and politicians conceal it. Integrity doesn’t hesitate to set itself against friendship, power or even its own interests, and then the critical issue of disowning it arises. The astute draw fine distinctions with their much applauded sophistry, so as not to offend reason or reason of state. But the steadfast man will judge dissimulation a form of treason, pride himself more on tenacity than on shrewdness, and always be found on the side of truth. And if he gives up on people, this is not because he is fickle, but because they have given up on truth.

28.

Vulgar in nothing. Not in matters of taste. How truly wise the man who was unhappy at the thought he might please the masses!An excess of applause from the vulgar never satisfies the discreet. Some are such chameleons of popularity that they take delight in the bad breath of the crowd, not the sweet breezes of Apollo. Nor in matters of understanding. Take no pleasure in the miracles of the mob, which are merely foolish bedazzlements, common stupidity being astonished, singular observation, disillusioned.

27.

Value intensiveness more than extensiveness. Perfection consists in quality, not quantity. Everything very good has always been brief and scarce; abundance is discreditable. Even among people, giants are usually the true dwarves. Some value books for their sheer size, as if they were written to exercise our arms not our wits. Extension alone can never rise above mediocrity, and the misfortune of all-embracing individuals is that, wanting to deal with everything, they deal with nothing. Intensity leads to distinction, and to heroic distinction if the matter is sublime.

26.

Find everyone’s weak spot. This is the art of moving people’s wills. It consists more in skill than determination – a knowledge of how to get inside each person. Everyone’s will has its own particular predilection, all different according to the variety of tastes. We all idolize something: for some, esteem; for others, self-interest; and for most, pleasure. The trick to influencing people lies in knowing what they idolize. Knowing each person’s driving impulse is like having the key to their will. You should go direct to what most motivates a person, normally something base rather than anything noble, for there are more self-indulgent people than self-controlled ones in the world. You should first divine someone’s character, then touch upon their fixation, and take control of their driving passion which, without fail, will defeat their free will.

25.

A word to the wise is enough. The art of arts used to be knowing how to reason and debate. This is no longer enough. Now you need to be able to read minds, especially when things are not what they seem. You will never be wise unless a word suffices. There are clairvoyants of the heart, and sharp-eyed lynxes of true intentions. The truths which matter most are always only half-spoken. Let the circumspect fully grasp these, reining in their credulity if they’re favorable, spurring it on, if they’re not.

24.

Temper your imagination. Sometimes restrain it, sometimes urge it on, for happiness entirely depends on it, and it even regulates good sense. It can become a tyrant, not content simply to speculate, but wanting to act, even taking over your life, making it a joy or a burden according to whatever nonsense it hits upon, because it makes us satisfied or dissatisfied with ourselves. To some, as the scourge of fools, it presents only difficulties. To others, it happily and vainly proposes success and adventure. This can happen unless our prudent moral sense reins it in.

23.

Have no blemish. They are perfection’s misfortune. Few are without flaws, both moral and physical, and they get worked up over them, though they can be easily rectified. Good sense feels pity when great talents and accomplishments are tarnished by a minor flaw, for it only takes one cloud to eclipse the sun.  Malice notices such blots on our reputation and dwells on them. It’s a sign of supreme skill to turn such negatives into positives, as Caesar did when he crowned his natural defect with laurels.

22.

A person with wide-ranging knowledge. Urbane and pleasant erudition is the ammunition of the discreet. A practical knowledge of current affairs, news not gossip. Have a store of witty sayings and gallant deeds, and know when to use them, for a joke, not a pedantic sermon, is often the best way to offer advice. Wisdom gained in conversation has been more useful to some than the seven arts, however liberal.

21.

The art of being lucky. Fortune has its rules, for not everything is a matter of chance for the wise. It can be helped along by diligence. Some are happy just to stand confidently at Fortune’s door waiting for her to open it. Others do better. Intelligently audacious, they press on and, on the wings of their virtue and courage, they catch up with good fortune and flatter her to good effect. But according to the best philosophy, there’s no other way than virtue and vigilance, for the only good or bad luck is prudence or imprudence.