XXIII-XXVI The Art of Worldly Wisdom
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Posted by Wisdom Book on February 23, 2010 at 13:38:49:
xxiii Be Spotless:|
the indispensable condition of perfection. Few live without some weak point, either physical or moral, which they pamper because they could easily cure it. The keenness of others often regrets to see a slight defect attaching itself to a whole assembly of elevated qualities, and yet a single cloud can hide the whole of the sun. There are likewise patches on our reputation which ill-will soon finds out and is continually noticing. The highest skill is to transform them into ornament. So Cæsar hid his natural defects with the laurel.
xxiv Keep the Imagination under Control;
sometimes correcting, sometimes assisting it. For it is all-important for our happiness, and even sets the reason right. It can tyrannies, and is not content with looking on, but influences and even often dominates life, causing it to be happy or burdensome according to the folly to which it leads. For it makes us either contented or discontented with ourselves. Before some it continually holds up the penalties of action, and becomes the mortifying lash of these fools. To others it promises happiness and adventure with blissful delusion. It can do all this unless the most prudent self-control keeps it in subjection.
xxv Know how to take a Hint.
’Twas once the art of arts to be able to discourse; now ’tis no longer sufficient. We must know how to take a hint, especially in disabusing ourselves. He cannot make himself understood who does not himself easily understand. But on the other hand there are pretended diviners of the heart and lynxes of the intentions. The very truths which concern us most can only be half spoken, but with attention we can grasp the whole meaning. When you hear anything favorable keep a tight rein on your credulity; if unfavorable, give it the spur.
xxvi Find out each Man's Thumbscrew.
’Tis the art of setting their wills in action. It needs more skill than resolution. You must know where to get at any one. Every volition has a special motive which varies according to taste. All men are idolaters, some of fame, others of self-interest, most of pleasure. Skill consists in knowing these idols in order to bring them into play. Knowing any man's mainspring of motive you have as it were the key to his will. Have resort to primary motors, which are not always the highest but more often the lowest part of his nature: there are more dispositions badly organized than well. First guess a man's ruling passion, appeal to it by a word, set it in motion by temptation, and you will infallibly give checkmate to his freedom of will.
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