The Art of Worldly Wisdom: 4


iv Knowledge and Courage are the elements of Greatness. They give immortality, because they are immortal. Each is as much as he knows, and the wise can do anything. A man without knowledge, a world without light. Wisdom and strength, eyes and hands. Knowledge without courage is sterile.

Greatness is a bizarre trait.  Is it fame?  Is it fortune?  Is it a quiet trait that does not announce itself?  How many people of greatness are buried in untended graves?  The time Gracian was writing, I don’t think Greatness was a nuanced trait.  Greatness was about a certain level of renown.

Gracian broke Greatness down into two categories: knowledge and courage.  In the Christopher Maurer translation of The Art of Worldly Wisdom, this passage gets a slightly different interpretation, saying knowledge and courage take turns at greatness.  I prefer this concept better.  Instead of thinking of greatness as the end of a formula where you add knowledge and courage together to attain it, greatness is a process.  First comes some knowledge, then courage, then knowledge.  One step after another.  Greatness isn’t a goal.  It is a means, a process to achieve goals.

A person can have all the knowledge of the great libraries of the world, but without courage to act on the knowledge, the individual will be a great repository of information but little else.  A wise person can do anything so long as their is courage to act.  Courage on its own is aimless and will result in heroics but not greatness.  Knowing when, where, and how to take action is the process of greatness.

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

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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.

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