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Book Summaries Philosophy

Cultivate Finesse (The Art of Worldly Wisdom)

The Thing Itself and the Way it is done. “Substance” is not enough: “accident” is also
required, as the scholastics say. A bad manner spoils everything, even reason and justice; a good
one supplies everything, gilds a No, sweetens truth, and adds a touch of beauty to old age itself.
The how plays a large part in affairs, a good manner steals into the affections. Fine behaviour
is a joy in life, and a pleasant expression helps out of a difficulty in a remarkable way.

Adapt Yourself to your Company. There is no need to show your ability before every one.
Employ no more force than is necessary. Let there be no unnecessary expenditure either of
knowledge or of power. The skilful falconer only flies enough birds to serve for the chase. If there
is too much display to-day there will be nothing to show to-morrow. Always have some novelty
wherewith to dazzle. To show something fresh each day keeps expectation alive and conceals the
limits of capacity.

Have the Art of Conversation. That is where the real personality shows itself. No act in life
requires more attention, though it be the commonest thing in life. You must either lose or
gain by it. If it needs care to write a letter which is but a deliberate and written conversation, how much more the ordinary kind in which there is occasion for a prompt display of intelligence? Experts feel the pulse of the soul in the tongue, wherefore the sage said, “Speak, that I may know thee.” Some hold that the art of conversation is to be without art–that it should be neat, not gaudy, like the garments. This holds good for talk between friends. But when held with persons to whom one would show respect, it should be more dignified to answer to the dignity of the person addressed. To be appropriate it should adapt itself to the mind and tone of the interlocutor. And do not be a critic of words, or you will be taken for a pedant; nor a taxgatherer of ideas, or men will avoid you, or at least sell their thoughts dear. in conversation discretion is more important than eloquence.

Be not Eccentric, neither from affectation nor carelessness. Many have some remarkable and
individual quality leading to eccentric actions. These are more defects than excellent differences. And just as some are known for some special ugliness, so these for something repellant in their outward behaviour. Such eccentricities simply serve as trademarks through their atrocious singularity: they cause either derision or ill-will.

Plan out your Life wisely, not as chance will have it, but with prudence and foresight. Without amusements it is wearisome, like a long journey where there are no inns: manifold knowledge gives manifold pleasure. The first day’s journey of a noble life should be passed in conversing with the dead: we live to know and to know our-selves: hence true books make us truly men. The second day should be spent with the living, seeing and noticing all the good in the world. Everything is not to be found in a single country. The Universal Father has divided His gifts, and at times has given the richest dower to the ugliest. The third day is entirely for oneself. The last felicity is to be a philosopher.

Silken Words, sugared Manners. Arrows pierce the body, insults the soul. Sweet pastry perfumes the breath. It is a great art in life to know how to sell wind. Most things are paid for in words, and by them you can remove impossibilities. Thus we deal in air, and a royal breath can produce courage and power. Always have your mouth full of sugar to sweeten your words, so that even your ill-wishers enjoy them. To please one must be peaceful.

Do not make a Business of what is no Business. As some make gossip out of everything, so others business. They always talk big, take everything in earnest, and turn it into a dispute or a secret. Troublesome things must not be taken too seriously if they can be avoided. It is preposterous to take to heart that which you should throw over your shoulders. Much that would be something has become nothing by being left alone, and what was nothing has become of consequence by being made much of. At the outset things can be easily settled, but not afterwards. Often the remedy causes the disease. ‘Tis by no means the least of life’s rules: to let things alone.

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

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