The Art of Worldly Wisdom: 3


Baltasar was quite clear with the third maxim.

iii Keep Matters for a Time in Suspense.

Admiration at their novelty heightens the value of your achievements, It is both useless and insipid to play with the cards on the table. If you do not declare yourself immediately, you arouse expectation, especially when the importance of your position makes you the object of general attention. Mix a little mystery with everything, and the very mystery arouses veneration. And when you explain, be not too explicit, just as you do not expose your inmost thoughts in ordinary intercourse. Cautious silence is the holy of holies of worldly wisdom. A resolution declared is never highly thought of; it only leaves room for criticism. And if it happens to fail, you are doubly unfortunate. Besides you imitate the Divine way when you cause men to wonder and watch.

It is easy to make assumptions about this maxim or attempt to extend the meaning beyond the intention.  I do not think Baltasar was encouraging people to not communicate.  This maxim is about careful communication.  Don’t lay all your cards on the table at once.  There is no reason to rush forth to give an opinion or consultation.  If one were to announce one’s plans completely, all that will happen is people will pick it apart and the plan won’t get a chance to be enacted.  Reveal only enough to get the next step completed.   The additional benefit is failure isn’t advertised.

I’m reminded of advice given to brides on their wedding: no one knows how it was supposed to go, so what happens at the wedding is what people think is supposed to happen.  So if the flowers aren’t exactly what was wanted, no one will know.  That is  they won’t know unless the plan was detailed to everyone beforehand.

I know I fail at this maxim a lot.  I’m very quick with my opinion.  I am far too transparent.  I have a long way to go before I can say I’ve successfully implemented this one.

I am curious if people might find this maxim offensive in some way.  Based upon other reading,  I don’t think Baltasar was encouraging people to play games with information, just to be careful about broadcasting one’s intentions.

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Maxim 1Maxim 2

Published by Sean D. Francis

Sean D. Francis is a technologist, writer, and geek. He podcasts, makes video, and dabbles in all the geeky genres including horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.