My favourite aphorisms from Baltasar Gracián

Short post today.


I went to a bachelor party last weekend and haven't recovered (side note: this happens when you party too hard in your 30s).


I couldn't bring myself to write my normal article this week. So I thought long and hard about what value I can provide to my readers. And I landed on showing you my favourite aphorisms from Baltasar Gracián.


I am a big fan of this Jesuit Preist from 17th-century Spain. Honestly, I even call him the step-dad you fall in love with. The man gives timeless advice I wish I had as an awkward 17-year-old kid trying to figure out life.


Anyways, enough of this sentimental tinge. Below are some aphorisms I love. So get a cup of coffee/tea and ponder.


Note: Baltasar Gracián has 300 aphorisms that are numbered. You are seeing the numbers that are reflected in the book.

Bulcha's favorite aphorisms from Baltasar Gracián


122. Mastery in words and deeds. It wins great esteem everywhere and gains respect in advance. Its influence is felt in everything: our conversation, public speaking, and even our movement, gaze and desire. To capture the hearts of others is a great victory. Such mastery doesn't come from foolish boldness or irritating delay but from dignified authority born of a superior character and supported by merit.


238. Know what you lack. Many an individual would be a truly rounded person if they weren't lacking that something without which they'll never reach the height of perfection. With some you can see they'd amount to something if they paid attention to a few small things. Some lack gravity, and this tarnished their talents; others lack gentleness, something colleagues immediately miss, and especially in those in important positions. Some need speed of execution, others, more restraint. All these flaws, if they are noticed, can easily be made good, for care can make habit a second nature.


264. Don't have careless days. Luck likes playing a trick and will rush at any chance to catch you unawares. Ingenuity, good sense, valour and even beauty should always be ready for the test, because the day they feel too confident will be the day they are discredited. Care is always absent when. most needed, for not thinking trips us up. An attentive person's strategy is usually to catch our best qualities off guard so as rigorously to evaluate us. The astute, knowing the days when a person is on show, pass over these and choose the least expected day to test someone's worth.


266. Don't be bad by being totally good. A someone is who never gets angry. Those who are insensible are hardly real people. This doesn't always stem from insensibility, but from stupidity. An opportunely expressed feeling is what makes us human. Birds quickly mock scarecrows. To alternate bitter and sweet is proof of good taste; sweetness alone is for children and fools. It's a great misfortune to lose yourself through being totally good in this state of insensibility.


287. Never act when passions are inflamed. You'll get everything wrong. You can't act for yourself if you're not in control of yourself, and passion always banishes reason. When this happens, use a prudent third party; if they're dispassionate, their prudence is guaranteed. Those who are watching a game always see more than those who are playing because they don't get excited. When you know you're agitated, let good sense sound the retreat before your blood boils and you create a bloody mess, for in an instant you'll provide days of gossip for others and of turmoil for yourself.


288. Live as circumstances demand. Ruling, reasoning, everything must be opportune. Act when you can, for time and tide wait for no one. To live, don't follow generalizations, except where virtue is concerned, and don't insist on precise rules for desire, for you'll have to drink tomorrow the water you shunned today. There are some so outlandishly misguided that they expect all circumstances necessary for success to conform to their own whims, not the reverse. But the wise know that the lodestar of prudence is to behave as circumstances demand.


289. The greatest stigma for a person is revealing that's all they are. People stop considering them divine the moment they appear all too human. Frivolity is completely at odds with reputation. Just as the reserved man is held to be more than a man, so the frivolous one is held to be less than one. There's no flaw that brings greater discredit, for frivolity is opposed to gravity. A frivolous person can have no real substance, especially if they're very old, since age demands good sense. And although this blemish is very widespread, it's always particularly discreditable.


291. Know how to appraise. Let the observation of the judicious vie with the reserve of the cautious. You need great judgement of your own to measure someone else's. It's more important to know the characters and properties of people than of plants and minerals. This is one of life's subtlest activities. Metals are recognized through their ring, people through their speech. Words reveal someone's integrity, but deeds even more so. What is needed here is extraordinary refelction, prfound observation, subtle scrutiny and judicious analysis.



293. On maturity. It shines forth in your bearing, but more so in your manners. Weight makes gold precious, and moral weight a person: it dignifies our qualities and provokes veneration. Demeanour is the soul's facade. It isn't a sedate stupidity, as the superficial think, but a calm authority: its words are sententious, its actions unerring. It bespeaks a fully formed individual, for it's maturity that makes you a true person. In ceasing to act like a child, someone starts to be serious and to have authority.


294. Moderation in forming opinions. Everyone forms ideas as they see fit and has abundant reasons for their views. In most people, judgement yields to feelings. Often two people meet who have opposite views, and each thinks reason is on their side, but reason, ever true, never serves two masters. A wise person should proceed cautiously in such a delicate situation. Cast doubt on your own position and so reform your opinion of your opponent's. You should see things on occasion from the other's point of view and examine their reasons. You'll thereby neither condemn the other person, nor defend yourself so blindly.


295. Heroic, not histrionic. The people who really flaunt things are those who have least reason to. With real stupidity, they turn everything into a mystery; chameleons of applause, they give everyone endless cause for laughter. Vanity has always been annoying; in these situations, it's laughable. Such tiny ants of honour, crawling after the glory of great deeds. Make least fuss of your greatest gifts. Be content simply to act, and leave talking to others. Undertake deeds, don't sell them. Don't hire golden pens to write garbage, thereby disgusting good sense. Seek to be heroic, rather than simply to appear so.


296. A man of many, and truly majestic, qualities. Greatest qualities make a great person: a single great quality is the equivalent of many mediocre ones. One person wanted everything around them to be impressive, even everyday things. How much better for a great man to endeavour that his inner qualities are thus. In God, everything is infinite, everything immense; similarly in heroes, everything should be greater and majestic, so that all their actions, and even their words, may be clothed in a transcendent, grandiose majesty.


300. In a word, a saint, a saint, which says it once and for all. Virtue links all perfections and is the centre of all happiness. It makes a person prudent, circumspect, shrewd, sensible, wise, brave, restrained, upright, happy, praiseworthy, a true and comprehensive hero. Three S's make someone blessed: being saintly, sound and sage. Virtue is the sun of the little world of man and its hemisphere is a clear conscience. It is so fine, it gains the favour of both God and mankind.