Posts Tagged ‘Theresa May’


Procrastination is mostly seen as a vice. Putting things off till later as a bad habit. This is not necessarily so. Certain decisions can have so many complicated effects, that putting them off to later may even become beneficial for all. The long lasting indecisiveness of the British parliament on on leaving the EU and if so how do do that is a fine example of the positive effects of procrastination. The object of decision is changing in the process. Starting of with Yes or No for Plan A, we have now passed plan B and C and in the end someone may walk off with a Yes for plan E, whatever that will be.

The extension of the BREXIT decision given by the leaders of the EU states to Great Britain, up to one year from now, brought me to read again the pocket book of diplomats, rulers and politicians written in the 17th century by a Spanish court priest Balthasar Grácian “The Art of Worldly Wisdom”, as the two hundred and so maximes still do apply to actual politics (as many wisdoms from the past, with technology and scientific knowledge having changed a lot, but human nature not).

These one’s may well fit in the hand bag of Theresa May… the book of Grácian has been translated in many languages and an early Dutch edition has as a title: “Handorakel of de kunst der voorzichtigheid” (Hand oracle or the art of prudence). A small size book one could put in one’s pocket or bag was called in the Low Countries ‘handorakel’. As with all of these ‘tactical manuals’ the whole set of recommendations/maximes will show some inconsistency, what is deemed good to do in one may be called not so good or bad in another. Still it helps us to get a wider perspective on the phenomenon of poltical decision.

“3. Keep Matters for a Time in Suspense. Admiration at their novelty heightens the value of your achievements. It is both useless and insipid to play with the cards on the table. If you do not declare yourself immediately, you arouse expectation, especially when the importance of your position makes you the object of general attention. Mix a little mystery with everything, and the very mystery arouses veneration. And when you explain, be not too explicit, just as you do not expose your inmost thoughts in ordinary intercourse. Cautious silence is the holy of holies of worldly wisdom. A resolution declared is never highly thought of; it only leaves room for criticism. And if it happens to fail, you are doubly unfortunate. Besides you imitate the Divine way when you cause men to wonder and watch.” [Gracián y Morales, Baltasar, and Joseph Jacobs. 1892. The art of worldly wisdom. London: Macmillan and Co. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/api/volumes/oclc/654889.html. ; maxime 3. ]

“36. In Acting or Refraining, weigh your Luck. More depends on that than on noticing your temperament. If he is a fool who at forty applies to Hippocrates for health, still more is he one who then first applies to Seneca for wisdom. It is a great piece of skill to know how to guide your luck even while waiting for it. For something is to be done with it by waiting so as to use it at the proper moment, since it has periods and offers opportunities, though one cannot calculate its path, its steps are so irregular. When you find Fortune favourable, stride boldly forward, for she favours the bold and, being a woman, the young. But if you have bad luck, keep retired so as not to redouble the influence of your unlucky star.” [Ibid.; maxime 36.]

“39. Recognise when Things are ripe, and then enjoy them. The works of nature all reach a certain point of maturity; up to that they improve, after that they degenerate. Few works of art reach such a point that they cannot be improved. It is an especial privilege of good taste to enjoy everything at its ripest. Not all can do this, nor do all who can know this. There is a ripening point too for fruits of intellect; it is well to know this both for their value in use and for their value in exchange.” [Ibid.; maxime 39.]

“55. Wait. It’s a sign of a noble heart dowered with patience, never to be in a hurry, never to be in a passion. First be master over yourself if you would be master over others. You must pass through the circumference of time before arriving at the centre of opportunity. A wise reserve seasons the aims and matures the means. Time’s crutch effects more than the iron club of Hercules. God Himself chasteneth not with a rod but with time. He spake a great word who said, “Time and I against any two.” Fortune herself rewards waiting with the first prize.” [Ibid.; maxime 55.]

“59. Finish off well. In the house of Fortune, if you enter by the gate of pleasure you must leave by that of sorrow and vice-versa. You ought therefore to think of the finish, and attach more importance to a graceful exit than to applause on entrance. It is the common lot of the unlucky to have a very fortunate outset and a very tragic end. The important point is not the vulgar applause on entrance — that comes to nearly all — but the general feeling at exit. Few in life are felt to deserve an encore. Fortune rarely accompanies any one to the door: warmly as she may welcome the coming, she speeds but coldly the parting guest.” [Ibid.; maxime 59.]

“110. Do not wait till you are a Sinking Sun. It is a maxim of the wise to leave things before things leave them. One should be able to snatch a triumph at the end, just as the sun even at its brightest often retires behind a cloud so as not to be seen sinking, and to leave in doubt whether he has sunk or no. Wisely withdraw from the chance of mishaps, lest you have to do so from the reality. Do not wait till they turn you the cold shoulder and carry you to the grave, alive in feeling but dead in esteem. Wise trainers put racers to grass before they arouse derision by falling on the course. A beauty should break her mirror early, lest she do so later with open eyes.” [Ibid.; maxime 110.]

“257. Never let Matters come to a Rupture, for our reputation always comes injured out of the encounter. Every one may be of importance as an enemy if not as a friend. Few can do us good, almost any can do us harm. In Jove’s bosom itself even his eagle never nestles securely from the day he has quarrelled with a beetle. Hidden foes use the paw of the declared enemy to stir up the fire, and meanwhile they lie in ambush for such an occasion. Friends provoked become the bitterest of enemies. They cover their own failings with the faults of others. Every one speaks as things seem to him, and things seem as he wishes them to appear. All blame us at the beginning for want of foresight, at the end for lack of patience, at all times for imprudence. If, however, a breach is inevitable, let it be rather excused as a slackening of friendship than by an outburst of wrath: here is a good application of the saying about a good retreat.” [Ibid.; maxime 257.]

“268. The Wise do at once what the Fool does at last. Both do the same thing; the only difference lies in the time they do it: the one at the right time, the other at the wrong. Who starts out with his mind topsyturvy will so continue till the end. He catches by the foot what he ought to knock on the head, he turns right into left, and in all his acts is but a child. There is only one way to get him in the right way, and that is to force him to do what he might have done of his own accord. The wise man, on the other hand, sees at once what must be done sooner or later, so he does it willingly and gains honour thereby.” [Ibid.; maxime 268.]

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