The Art of Worldly Wisdom [with active TOC and footnotes]

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Do you seek to be with the profane? In your heart you are like them. Are jesters and buffoons your choice friends? He who loves to laugh at folly is himself a fool. Do you love and seek the society of the wise and good? Is this your habit? Had you rather take the lowest seat among these than the highest seat among others? Then you have already learned to be good. You may not make very much progress, but even a good beginning is not to be despised. Sinks of Pollution. Once habituate yourself to a virtuous course, once secure a love of good society, and no punishment would be greater than by accident to be obliged for half a day to associate with the low and vulgar.

Try to frequent the company of your betters. Procure no Friend in Haste. Be slow in choosing an associate, and slower to change him; slight no man for poverty, nor esteem any one for his wealth. Good friends should not be easily forgotten, nor used as suits of apparel, which, when we have worn them threadbare, we cast them off, and call for new.

When once you profess yourself a friend, endeaver to be always such. He can never have any true friends that will be often changing them. He that does a base thing in zeal for his friend, burns the golden thread that ties their hearts together. Essence of Character. It may also be regarded as the primary essence of character.


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It is in virtue of this quality that Shakespeare defines man as a being "looking before and after. Root of all the Virtues. Let a man give the reins to his impulses and passions, and from that moment he yields up his moral freedom. He is carried along the current of life, and becomes the slave of his strongest desire for the time being. Resist Instinctive Impulse. Thus it is this power which constitutes the real distinction between a physical and a moral life, and that forms the primary basis of individual character.

Nine-tenths of the vicious desires that degrade society, and which, when indulged, swell into the crimes that disgrace it, would shrink into insignificance before the advance of valiant self-discipline, self-respect, and self-control. By the watchful exercise of these virtues, purity of heart and mind become habitual, and the character is built up in chastity, virtue, and temperance. The Best Support. We may be its willing subject on the one hand, or its servile slave on the other.

It may help us on the road to good, or it may hurry us on the road to ruin. The Ideal Man. Not to be impulsive, not to be spurred hither and thither by each desire that in turn comes upper-most, but to be self-restrained, self-balanced, governed by the joint decision of the feelings in council assembled, before whom every action shall have been fully debated, and calmly determined—that it is which education, moral education at least, strives to produce.

The Best Regulated Home. Moral discipline acts with the force of a law of nature. Those subject to it yield themselves to it unconsciously; and though it shapes and forms the whole character, until the life becomes crystallized in habit, the influence thus exercised is for the most part unseen and almost unfelt. Practice Self-denial. Men have to bear as well as to forbear.

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The temper has to be held in subjection to the judgment; and the little demons of ill-humor, petulance, and sarcasm, kept resolutely at a distance. If once they find an entrance to the mind, they are apt to return, and to establish for themselves a permanent occupation there. Power of Words. The stinging repartee that rises to the lips, and which, if uttered, might cover an adversary with confusion, how difficult it is to resist saying it!

There are words that sever hearts more than sharp swords do; there are words the point of which sting the heart through the course of a whole life. Character Exhibits Itself. The wise and forbearant man will restrain his desire to say a smart or severe thing at the expense of another's feeling; while the fool blurts out what he thinks, and will sacrifice his friend rather than his joke. He could not deny himself the pleasure of uttering a harsh and clever sarcasm at another's expense.

One of his biographers observed of him, that it was no extravagant arithmetic to say that for every ten jokes he made himself a hundred enemies. But this was not all. Poor Burns exercised no control over his appetites, but freely gave them the rein:. Sow Pollution.

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Indeed, notwithstanding the many exquisite poems of this writer, it is not saying too much that his immoral writings have done far more harm than his purer writings have done good; and it would be better that all his writings should be destroyed and forgotten, provided his indecent songs could be destroyed with them. Moral Principle. They cannot look upon a beautiful girl with a pure heart and pure thoughts. They have not manifested or practiced that self-control which develops true manhood and brings into subordination evil thoughts, evil passions, and evil practices.

Men who have no self-control will find life a failure, both in a social and in a business sense. The world despises an insignificant person who lacks backbone and character. Stand upon your manhood and womanhood; honor your convictions, and dare to do right. Strong Drink. It is only the lack of self-control that brings men into the depths of degradation; on account of the cup, the habit of taking drink occasionally in its milder forms—of playing with a small appetite that only needs sufficient playing with to make you a demon or a dolt. You think you are safe; I know you are not safe, if you drink at all; and when you get offended with the good friends that warn you of your danger, you are a fool.

I know that the grave swallows daily, by scores, drunkards, every one of whom thought he was safe while he was forming his appetite. But this is old talk. A young man in this age who forms the habit of drinking, or puts himself in danger of forming the habit, is usually so weak that he does not realize the consequences. There are habits contracted by bad example, or bad management, before we have judgment to discern their approaches, or because the eye of Reason is laid asleep, or has not compass of view sufficient to look around on every quarter. The young man who sows his wild oats and indulges in the social cup, is fastening chains upon himself that never can be broken.

The innocent youth by solitary practice of self-abuse will fasten upon himself a habit which will wreck his physical constitution and bring suffering and misery and ruin. Young man and young woman, beware of bad habits formed in early life. A Bundle of Habits. Metastasio entertained so strong an opinion as to the power of repetition in act and thought, that he said, "All is habit in mankind, even virtue itself.

Vicious Habits. At each successive encounter this resistence grows fainter and fainter, until finally it ceases altogether and the victory is achieved. Habit is man's best friend and worst enemy; it can exalt him to the highest pinnacle of virtue, honor and happiness, or sink him to the lowest depths of vice, shame and misery. Honesty, or Knavery.

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In short, there, is not a virtue, nor a vice; not an act of body, nor of mind, to which we may not be chained down by this despotic power. Begin well. Begin well, and the habit of doing well will become quite easy, as easy as the habit of doing badly. Pitch upon that course of life which is the most excellent, and habit will render it the most delightful. The Longing for a Good Name. So large is this passion that it is set forth in poetic thought, as having a temple grand as that of Jupiter or Minerva, and up whose marble steps all noble minds struggle—the temple of Fame.

These rivers and torrents swell with those rains of money and home and fame and happiness, and then fall and run almost dry, but the ocean of civilization has gathered up all these waters, and holds them in sparkling beauty for all subsequent use.

The Art of Worldly Wisdom - Baltasar Gracian - Quotes & Maxims

Civilization is a fertile delta made by the drifting souls of men. The meaning of the direct term may be seen from its negation or opposite, for only the meanest of men are called infamous. They are utterly without fame, utterly nameless; but if fame implied only notoriety, then infamous would possess no marked significance. Fame is an undertaker that pays but little attention to the living, but who bedizens the dead, furnishes out their funerals and follows them to the grave. We must read the words of the sage, who said long centuries ago that "a good name was rather chosen than great riches.

Solon said that "He that will sell his good name will sell the State. Influences of Our Age. Beauty of Character. Selling Out Their Reputation. Some king remarked that he would not tell a lie for any reward less than an empire. It is not uncommon in our world for a man to sell out all his honor and hopes for a score or a half score of dollars. Prisons Overflowing. They have not waited for an empire to be offered them before they would violate the sacred rights of man, but many of them have even murdered for a cause that would not have justified even an exchange of words.

Integrity the Pride of the Government. If all fraudulent men should go straight to jail, pitilessly, and if all the most rigid characters were sought out for all political and commercial offices, there would soon come a popular honesty just as there has come a love of reading or of art.

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It is with character as with any new article—the difficulty lies in its first introduction. A New Virtue. A few years of rewarding the worthy would result in a wonderful zeal in the young to build up, not physical property, but mental and spiritual worth.

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