THE ART OF WORLDLY WISDOM

10 Lessons

Translated by Christopher Maurer

Editors note:

In an attempt to contaminate you, the jury, we have randomly selected only 10 of the 300 lessons that appear in the book to be published herein. ENJOY.

Lesson #1

Don’t outshine your boss. Being defeated is hateful, and besting one’s boss is either foolish or fateful. Superiority is always odious, especially to superiors and sovereigns. The common sort of advantages can be cautiously hidden, as beauty is hidden with the touch of artful neglect. Most people do not mind being surpassed in goof fortune, character, or temperament, but no one, especially not a sovereign, likes to be surpassed in intelligence. For this is the king of attributes, and any crime against it is lese-majests. Sovereigns want to be so in what is most important. Princes liked to be helped but not surpassed. When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he has forgotten, not the light he was unable to see. It is the stars who teach us this subtlety. They are brilliant sons, but they never dare to outshine the sun.

Lesson #2

Keep changing your style of doing things. Vary your methods. This will confuse people, especially your rivals, and awaken their curiosity and attention. If you always act on your first intention, others will foresee it and thwart it. It is easy to kill the bird that always flies in a straight line, but not one that changes its line of flight. Don’t always act on your second intention either; do something twice, and others will discover the ruse. Malice is ready to pounce on you; you need a good deal of subtlety to outwit it. The consummate player never moves the piece his opponent expects him to, and less still, the piece he wants him to move.

Lesson #3

Find each person’s “handle,” his weak point! The art of moving people’s wills involves more skill than determination. You must know how to get inside the other person. Each will has its own special object of delight; they vary according to taste. Everyone idolizes something. Some want to be well thought of, others idolize profit, and most people idolize pleasure. The trick is to identify the idols that can set people in motion. It is like having the key to someone else’s desires. Go for the “prime mover,” which isn’t always something lofty and important. Usually it is something low, for the unruly outnumber the well ruled. First size up someone’s character and then touch on his weak point. Tempt him with his particular pleassure, and you’ll checkmate his will.

Lesson #4

Feel with the few, speak with the many. Rowing against the current makes it impossible to discover the truth and is extremely dangerous. Only Socrates could attempt it. Dissent is taken as insult, for it condemns the judgement of others. Many take offense, whether on account of the person criticized or the one who applauded hi. The truth belongs to the few. Deceit is as common as it is vulgar. You can never tell the wise by what they say in public. They speak not in their own voices, but in that of common stupidity, though deep inside they are cursing it. The sensible person avoids both being contradicted and contradicting others. He may be quick to censure, but he is slow to do so in public. Feelings are free; they cannot and should not be violated. They live in silent retirement and show themselves only to a few sensible people.

Lesson #5

Know how to say “NO.” You can’t grant everything to everybody. Saying “no” is as important as granting things, especially among those in command. What matters is the way you do it. Some people’s “no” is prized more highly than the “yes” of others: a gilded “no” pleases more than a curt “yes.”Many people always have “no” on their lips, and they sour everything.

“No” is what occurs to them first. They may give in later, but they aren’t well thought of because they started out being so unpleasant. Refusal shouldn’t come in one fell blow. Let people nibble on their disappointment little by little. Never refuse something completely; others would no longer depend on you There should always be some last remnants of hope to sweeten the bitterness of refusal. Let courtesy occupy the void where favor once stood, and good words compensate for a lacking of action. “No” and “yes” are short words requiring long thought.

Lesson #6

Unfathomable gifts. The prudent person----if he wants to be revered by others---- should never allow them to judge the extent of his knowledge and courage. Allow yourself to be known, but not comprehended. No one will discern the limits of your talent, and thus no one will be disappointed. You can win more admiration by keeping other people guessing the extent of your talent, or even doubting it, than you can by displaying it, however great.

Lesson #7

Don’t make much ado about nothing. Some take nothing into account, and others want to account for everything. They are always talking importance, always taking things too seriously, turning them into debates and mystery. Few bothersome things are important enough to bother with. It is folly to take to heart what you should turn your back on. Many things that were something are nothing if left alone, and others that were nothing turn into much because we pay attention to them. In the beginning it is easy to put an end to problems, but not later. Sometimes the cure causes the disease. Not the least of life’s rules is to leave well enough alone.

Lesson #8

Know how to use your friends. It takes skill and discretion. Some are useful when near and others when far away. Ant the one who isn’t good for conversation may be good for correspondence. Distance purifies certain defects that are unbearable at close range. You shouldn’t seek only pleasure in your friends, but also utility. A friend is all things, and friendship has the three qualities of anything good: unity, goodness, and truth. Few people make good friends, and they are fewer still when we don’t know how to select them. Knowing how to keep a friend is more important than gaining a new one. Look for friends that can last, and when they’re new, be satisfied that one day they will be old. The best ones of all are those well salted, with whom we have shared bushels of experiences. Life without friends is a wasteland. Friendship multiplies god and shares evils. It is a unique remedy for bad luck and sweet relief to the soul.

Lesson #9

Don’t live in a hurry. If you know how to organize things, you will know how to enjoy them.

Many have life left over when luck runs out. They waste their happy moments and further down the road would like to turn around and return to them. Time moves to slowly for them, and, postilions of life, they spur it on with their own rash temperament. They want to devour in a day what they could hardly digest in a lifetime. They anticipate their successes, gulp down years of the future, and since they are always in a hurry, they soon finish everything. Even in the desire for knowledge they should show moderation so that things known won’t be badly known. There are more days than luck. Be quick to act, slow to enjoy. Deeds are good, and content is bad, when they are over.

Lesson #10

In a word, be a saint, that says everything. Virtue is a chain of all perfections, the center of all happiness. She makes you prudent, discreet, shrewd, sensible, wise, brave, cautious, honest, happy, praiseworthy, true....a universal hero .Three things make one blessed: saintliness, wisdom, and prudence. Virtue is the sun of the lesser world, and its hemisphere is a good conscience. It is so lovely that it wins God’s grace and that of others. There is nothing as lovable as Virtue, nor as hateful as vice. Virtue alone is for real; all else is shame. Talent and greatness depend on Virtue, not on fortune. Only virtue is sufficient unto herself. She makes us love the living and remember the dead.

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