The Art of Worldly Wisdom: 10

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If the ninth maxim Baltasar Gracian put forth is one of my favorites, the tenth gives me chills.  Not in an elated way but in a fearful way.  The tenth maxim speaks of the two things I seek and want the most, fortune and fame.  One of the reasons why I like Baltasar Gracian is he does have a sense of pragmatism.  Where some philosophers would encourage a person to shun fame and to not see fortune as a life goal.

x Fortune and Fame.

Where the one is fickle the other is enduring. The first for life, the second afterwards; the one against envy, the other against oblivion. Fortune is desired, at times assisted: fame is earned. The desire for fame springs from man’s best part. It was and is the sister of the giants; it always goes to extremes—horrible monsters or brilliant prodigies.

Fame is fickle. Andy Warhol said everyone would have 15 minutes of fame. The movie We Live in Public points to the fact that the desire for fame can drive people to go to crazy lengths for fame. The internet truly changed the concept of what fame is best described by this t-shirt.

Just because the nature of fame has changed does not mean Gracian’s advice regarding fame is not valid.  Fame, according to Gracian, stems not from a sense of pride but a sense of greatness, of strength and power.

Fortune, Baltazar says, is something that can be nurtured.  The collection of fortune can even be turned over to others, but fame requires constant effort.  Fortune will grow to a point where it will become self sustaining.  Fame is never self sustaining.  It fades if not maintained.

So why would anyone seek fame?  Fortune is obvious, fortune makes life easier.  Fame?  Well, fame is a form of immortality.  Most people will have children to carry their memory and name into the future.  Some will only have their fame.   That reminds me of this story I recently listened to called Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Bookstore which talks about this special kind of immortality.  Talks about it in speculative fiction terms so it turns out to be real immortality instead of just a transference of memory forward into the future, but that is the nature of such things.

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

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