This book changed my life
I came to a point in my life where I realized I was not the person I wanted to be.
I had achieved a certain modicum of success – I am a writer in Europe, something I had dreamed of being since I was a kid – but no matter what I did, something was holding me back.
This book fell into my hands.
“The Art of Worldly Wisdom” is the world’s first truly great self-help book.
In 300 short chapters, a 400-year old philosopher lays down a road map for any man or woman to change their behavior in order to become the kind of person who strives for excellence.
It is all just as true today as it was then, sometimes brutal so. Many things change with time, but human behavior does not.
My father had given it to me some time before, but at the time I felt a disdain for so-called “self-help” books, and it It had been sitting on my bookshelf unread since then.
As I read, something unexpected happened: I recognized myself.
Gracian talks a lot in this book about how to behave personally and in society if you want to be the man or woman capable of achievement. He often refers to men and women who don’t know how to behave as “fools.”
After a few chapters, I realized that my behavior fit that of the “fools.”
I decided I had to change – and the first thing I did was get into the habit of reading one chapter of this book each morning.
That is what I recommend to any. man or woman striving to achieve something in there lives.
I am honestly convinced anyone fitting that description should read this book, preferably one chapter a day.
To enable that, I have recorded each chapter (in a text carefully edited to make it more natural for modern audiences) and am posting them to YouTube and to my Poetry & Purpose website for free.
If you are like me – a man or woman who wants to make something out of their lives and has found that you have to change in order to do that – please read this book.
The Jesuit Philosopher
Who Was Gracian?
Baltasar Gracián (1601 – 1658) was a philosopher and Jesuit priest in Spain.
As a philosopher, he was famous in Europe for hundreds of years after his death, and
inspired the likes of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.
His most famous work in his own lifetime was his novel El Criticón (“The Critic”), an allegory about two characters – the “critical man” and the “natural man” – who embark on a long and hazardous journey.
The book also got him exiled – because he had published part of it in direct disobedience to his superiors.
His most enduring work to this day, and best known in the English-speaking world, is “The Art of Worldly Wisdom,” a handbook of 300 short instructions on altering your behavior to achieve excellence.
The Thoughtfully Modernized Edition
What did you do to his book?
For the text I record on these videos, I took the Joseph Jacobs English translation of 1892 and reworked it for modern readers.
Gracian wrote in a baroque, ornate Spanish that is generally translated into a baroque, ornate English. As a modern writer, I find that unnecessary.
I found that it is possible to carefully revise the Jacobs translation in such a way that the meaning is left perfectly as it is, but the sentences are formulated in a clearer and more direct way – you no longer have to go back and reread some sentences two or three times.
In addition, for modern audiences I have added some context for outdated references, for example little-known antique myths, and where Gracian writes “A man who …,” I have written, “A man or woman who …”
This book is so honest, wise, true and endlessly useful that I feel it deserves the kind of language that Gracian might have used had he written the book today – majestic in style, honest and clear in content and practically accessible for those of us who can profit from it.
I call my text the “Thoughtfully Modernized Edition.”
What you will get from Substack or Patreon
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– searching for purpose and meaning, or want to become a person capable of achieving something in life; or
– if you write or want to enhance your creativity and understanding of life through writing.
In our free section,
you will find the lessons and insights I have learned in my life and am still learning today:
– from 60 years of life as an outsider in two cultures and on two continents – as a haole in Hawaii and an Ami in Germany;
– from my quest to find purpose, meaning as spirituality, and the truth about the confused world we live in;
– from my fight with depression and life with ADHD;
– from my study of the great books and poetry of the great thinkers in history.
Our exclusive section
is for writers and those learning to write – in it, you will find:
– practical lessons on the craft of storytelling;
– tips on how to enhance your creativity and find meaning and purpose in life through writing;
– my experiences in the world of professional writing, but also as one who explores life through writing.
This exclusive content, "Writing is a Sacred Act," is available to both my Substack subscribers and my supporters on Patreon.
If you are someone who consciously thinks about their lives and the world they live in;
if you are driven by a desire to create or achieve;
if you write or are learning to write,
you will love this newsletter.