How to Use Your Enemies by Baltasar Gracián
A seventeenth-century Spanish priest's shrewd maxims on using guile and pragmatism to succeed in a dangerous world.
This little collection of aphorisms really does reflect its title. How to Use Your Enemies gives us advice on how to go far in life by manipulating and using others, whether superior to you or otherwise. Interestingly, Gracián explains how not only to use your enemies, but also your friends. It's incredibly calculating, and surprising in places, particularly for being written by a man of the cloth.
I found it both easy and difficult to relate to all at once. Having spent the last few years of my life as an emotional recluse, and also a total bitch, I'm now trying hard (and succeeding) in opening up, connecting with people, and appreciating them for everything they are. I remember when the opposite was true, and this behaviour is what Gracián supports. I don't agree with sizing people up and using them for my own gain, nor do I believe in maintaining a persona at all times; some of his maxims, however, would certainly be helpful in the area of work I'm in, and are ones which I'm bound to unconsciously take on board.
An interesting read, with some notable points, but absolutely outdated and quite chilling in places. I'll leave you with my favourite of his comments:
In heaven, everything is good; in hell, everything bad. In the world, since it lies between the two, you find both. We are placed between two extremes, and so participate in both. Good and bad luck alternate; not all is happy, nor all hostile. This world is a zero: on its own, it's worth nothing; joined to heaven, a great deal. Indifference to its variety constitutes good sense - the wise are never surprised. Our life is arranged like a play, everything will be sorted out in the end. Take care, then, to end it well.