Book Summaries Philosophy

Be Practical (The Art of Worldly Wisdom)

Have a Touch of the Trader. Life should not be all thought: there should be action as well.
Very wise folk are generally easily deceived, for while they know out-of-the-way things they do
not know the ordinary things of life, which are much more needful. The observation of higher
things leaves them no time for things close at hand. Since they know not the very first thing
they should know, and what everybody knows so well, they are either considered or thought
ignorant by the superficial multitude. Let therefore the prudent take care to have
something of the trader about him–enough to prevent him being deceived and so laughed at. Be
a man adapted to the daily round, which if not the highest is the most necessary thing in life. Of
what use is knowledge if it is not practical, and to know how to live is nowadays the true

Original and out-of-the-way Views are signs of superior ability. We do not think much of a
man who never contradicts us that is no sign he loves us, but rather that he loves himself. Do not
be deceived by flattery, and thereby have to pay for it: rather condemn it. Besides you may take
credit for being censured by some, especially if they are those of whom the good speak ill. On
the contrary, it should disturb us if our affairs please every one, for that is a sign that they are of
little worth. Perfection is for the few.

Neither belong entirely to Yourself nor entirely to Others. Both are mean forms of
tyranny. To desire to be all for oneself is the same as desiring to have all for oneself. Such persons
will not yield a jot or lose a tittle of their comfort. They are rarely beholden, lean on their
own luck, and their crutch generally breaks. It is convenient at times to belong to others, that
others may belong to us. And he that holds public office is no more nor less than a public slave, or
let a man give up both berth and burthen, as the old woman said to Hadrian. On the other hand,
others are all for others, which is folly, that always flies to extremes, in this case in a most
unfortunate manner. No day, no hour, is their own, but they have so much too much of others
that they may be called the slaves of all. This applies even to knowledge, where a man may
know everything for others and nothing for himself. A shrewd man knows that others when
they seek him do not seek him, but their advantage in him and by him.

Do not follow up a Folly. Many make an obligation out of a blunder, and because they
have entered the wrong path think it proves their strength of character to go on in it. Within they
regret their error, while outwardly they excuse it. At the beginning of their mistake they were
regarded as inattentive, in the end as fools. Neither an unconsidered promise nor a mistaken
resolution are really binding. Yet some continue in their folly and prefer to be constant fools.

The Wise do at once what the Fool does at last. Both do the same thing; the only difference
lies in the time they do it: the one at the right time, the other at the wrong. Who starts out
with his mind topsyturvy will so continue till the end. He catches by the foot what he ought to
knock on the head, he turns right into left, and in all his acts is but a child. There is only one way to
get him in the right way, and that is to force him to do what he might have done of his own
accord. The wise man, on the other hand, sees at once what must be done sooner or later, so he
does it willingly and gains honour thereby.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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