Friday, February 12, 2010

The Secret of a Long Life, According to Balthasar Gracian

I love this man’s worldly-wise and eternally relevant view upon life. This globule of acumen oozes significance and brilliance. He says:

“Two things bring life speedily to an end: folly and immorality. Some lose their life because they have not the intelligence to keep it, others because they have not the will.”

More on this quote later...

I learned recently that former U.S. President Bill Clinton still works between 18-20 hours per day—a tortuous schedule if not for a passion to help in the capacity he can. He is no Robinson Crusoe. Much of the world is working tirelessly for the good. And this is central to the secret of living a long and satisfying life, rich in legacy when we’re long gone.

The guru would have us know that they ‘who live a fast life run through life in a double sense,’ and their virtue never dies. These seem to pack much more value into life for themselves and others.

And this is how it seems to work. The body is reinforced by the mind; ‘firmness of soul’ is a great aid to extending a life as far as the boundaries will allow, even pushing the boundaries, ever so passionately in virtuosity. Our limits physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exist well beyond where we ordinarily think if we dare to be bold enough to explore. I discovered this personally in my early twenties working my body routinely well past where I thought it should stop.

Returning above... if we want the long life, and there are more reasons for it than against it, we drop the above advice on its head. We must reject both folly and immorality—but know this; folly is a form of immorality and vice versa—they’re intrinsically linked.

Reject Folly – Become as Wise as Possible

The only way to do this is seek virtuous wisdom, and yet there are many sources; but few reveal truth that protects and provides for us. Our best advice is to watch those we consider as wise; ask them. We need sufficient intelligence to retain our health and wellbeing. Life is precious. It has a sanctity we must think about a great deal to truly appreciate.

Reject Immorality – Become as Morally Responsible as We Can

Those with weak wills will always struggle. The truth is we all commence the journey in roughly the same position. A strong will, with a conscience to match, is not a ‘born-with’ situation—we develop them both. And it takes virtue to do that: commitment, self-discipline, courage, self-sacrifice, patience, faith and moral strength.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Reference: Aphorism #90 from Balthasar Gracian’s, Art of Worldly Wisdom.

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