Saturday, November 14, 2015

Baltasar Gracian: contradictory people

No. 135

"Do not carry a spirit of contradiction, for it is to be freighted with stupidity, and with peevishness, and your intelligence should plot against it; though it may well be the mark of mental genius to see objection, a wrangler about everything cannot escape being marked the fool, for he makes guerrilla warfare of quiet conversation, and so becomes more of an enemy to his intimates, than to those with whom he will have nothing to do;  it is in the most savory morsel that the spine which gets caught hurts most, and so it is with contradiction in moments of happy converse; such a man is a fool, offensive, who adds to the untamed within himself, the beastly."

-- Baltasar Gracian --
The Art of Worldly Wisdom

 As usual, this is not a simple "never do this" rule, for Gracian is far too sophisticated to suggest this.  I think the most significant qualifier is "a wrangler about everything."  In other words, pick the time and place carefully, and be sparing of contradicting others.  With all the distractions brought about by the ringing of the ever present mobile phone, it is difficult enough to have a quiet, uninterrupted conversation with one or more people without having to deal with the one who deems it necessary to correct numerous statements.

There are times and places when pointing out errors will be necessary, but those probably, in reality, are rare.  And, there should be a statute of limitations as to bringing up comments or statements made in the past.  How significant is it if one has to go back a decade or more to dig up a racial slur or a sexual innuendo?
The circumstances in which the statement was made are no longer clear, even if not distorted by time, and the individual who made the statement may no longer think the same way. 

If Gracian were alive today, after being made aware of the various recording devices and means of storing conversations, he would probably suggest that one should now think three or four times rather than only twice before saying something.


  1. There is a lot to ponder here. The lack of context leads me not to comment. I too often react and respond to others without thinking long and hard about the real issues. But, hey, no one is perfect. This time I simply ponder. Thanks for the catalyst, the provocation.

  2. R.T.,

    I think it was LaoTze who said that "Silence is the greatest wisdom." But, I would add, "most of the time."