Friday, August 15, 2014

Baltasar Gracian: the necessity for the coverup

No. 126

"He is not a fool who commits foolishness, but he who having done so does not know how to conceal it.  If your merits should be kept under seal, how much more your demerits.  All men go wrong, but with this difference, the intelligent cover up what they have committed, and the fools expose even what they  may commit.  A good name rests more upon what is concealed, than upon what is revealed, for he who cannot be good, must be cautious: the sins of great men should be regarded as mere eclipses of the heavenly bodies.  Let it be a mistake to confide your errors even to  a friend, for were it possible, you should not disclose them to yourself; but since this is impossible, make use here of that other principle of life, which is: learn how to forget."

--Baltasar Gracian --
from The Art of Worldly Wisdom
trans.  Martin Fischer

I think the core of the paragraph is the following:

"A good name rests more upon what is concealed, than upon what is revealed.  .  ."

Is this true?  I admit that this probably is true in a number of cases.    Almost daily we hear about the hidden transgressions of our social, financial, political, entertainment, and religious leaders and idols.  However, is this true of all, or even a majority of them?   Are there people whose good name is just who they are and not the byproduct of a campaign of concealment?

The last few words--"learn how to forget"--reminds me of a favorite saying of mine.  I've forgotten the author, but I do remember the remark: "Perfect happiness is good health and a bad memory."


  1. No one wants his sins and deficiencies exposed to someone else. Perhaps this is part of the wisdom of Catholic confession: the sins are exposed but in a private way. Note: I am not Catholic, but I have been intrigued by the reasons for the processes in the Church.

  2. RT,

    Thanks for stopping by. I was raised Catholic, and one of the "benefits" of confession is the sense of relief. One can get beyond them since they've been "forgiven."

    Gracian talks about the repercussions of exposure while I know of nobody, including myself, who has ever been harmed by what was said in the confessional.

    We see numerous examples today of politicians and religious leaders who have been exposed but don't seem to have been harmed by it a short time later. I read regularly of politicians who are being elected again after having left, voluntarily or otherwise, office for some transgression.

    I wonder if Gracian has missed this aspect--call it society's short memory or willingness to forgive or both..

    1. Hmm. I was raised Catholic and don't remember any feelings of relief from confession. Remember John Edwards, a democratic candidate for president? Will there be forgiveness there. I doubt it. Bill Clinton's transgression pretty much ground the wheels of government to a halt. So I think Gracian is correct in his observations.

      Love your saying: "Perfect Happiness is good health and a bad memory."

  3. Ted,

    I do remember that sense of relief, but it seemed to lessen as I got older.

    I think there's a difference between "a good name" which is public and contentment with oneself which is internal and may have little or nothing to do with one's "good name," unless, of course, having a "good name" is vital to one's image of oneself.

    I wish I could claim credit for that saying, but I can't. I don't remember where I found it, but I just did a search and found that it's attributed to Ingrid Bergman and to Albert Schweitzer.