The Art of Worldly Wisdom: 6


At the sixth maxim, I believe we hit upon one of Gracian’s great themes.  We are not perfect.  We have not reached the acme of our selves.

A Man at his Highest Point.  We are not born perfect: every day we develop in our personality and in our calling till we reach the highest point of our completed being, to the full round of our accomplishments, of our excellences. This is known by the purity of our taste, the clearness of our thought, the maturity of our judgment, and the firmness of our will. Some never arrive at being complete; somewhat is always awanting: others ripen late. The complete man, wise in speech, prudent in act, is admitted to the familiar intimacy of discreet persons, is even sought for by them.

The person we are today is not the full potential of who we can be.  Each day is a chance to climb a bit higher, improve ourselves a bit more.  We all start life at different points on this climb towards perfection, accept the advantages work against the disadvantages and seek the highest point you can reach.  Gracian’s definition of when the acme has been reached feels a bit Scientologist… it is about clarity.

I am not sure what ‘purity of taste’ could possibly mean.  It feels subjective.  I had to reference the Christopher Mauer translation to get “elevated taste”.  I think this means rising above the lowest common denominator.  Being able to apply critical thought to the things we experience and being able to classify these things.  It means having knowledge of the things we experience.  I don’t want to oversimplify but I can’t help but think in terms of wine.  After studying and sampling various types of wine, selecting a good wine from a bad wine and knowing why it is good becomes natural.

The other elements are a bit more self-explanatory.  Clearness of thought. Maturity of judgment. Firmness of will.

Now the other question that comes to mind on this maxim is whether one ‘rises in level’ through some other means or through practicing these elements.  Developing purity of taste, developing clarity of thought, maturing judgment, and firming of one’s will.  I do believe that these are the ways to reach perfection.

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.