43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Everything I needed to know, I learned in the 1600s.

It's taken as a given that we now deal with more information than previous generations ever imagined, living lives in which "number of clicks" is a meaningful measure of time. As Spanish productivity guru Balthasar Gracian says:

There is more required nowadays to make a single wise man than formerly to make Seven Sages, and more is needed nowadays to deal with a single person than was required with a whole people in former times.

Except he wrote that in the 17th century.

I first heard about Balthasar Gracian's The Art of Worldly Wisdom from an old friend - the mother of a girl I grew up with. Later, I went into a pretty good bookstore with a couple of college buddies and asked the guy behind the counter if they had any copies. He got very excited and said, "Gracian's Manual? Why, that's been an underground classic for four hundred years!"

I'm continually surprised at how much it remains underground, since it's really quite useful in almost every way. It's a collection of aphorisms - short little bits of advice - so maybe it's just permanently unfashionable. Gracian was a Jesuit scholar, army chaplain, philosopher, raconteur and novelist, and his most famous little book is something like a cross between D.T. Suzuki's digestible Zen Buddhism, Machiavelli's political scheming, Dale Carnegie's personal diplomacy, Schmidt & Eno's Oblique Strategies and Sun Tzu's advice on overcoming conflict.

If you're interested in increasing your mindfulness and basically putting things in order, there are worse books to keep on your nightstand. Or, you know, bookmarked for a quick glance between projects.

jamiegrove's picture

The good old days

No doubt, Chrome. It seems like we're always hearkening back to the good old days, isn't it? But then, someone looks under the rock and finds someone pointing even further back.

I like Gracian. Thomas Merton was also accessible in the same vein.

Speaking of mindful, I love Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. I listened to that on tape in the car driving back and forth to work. Amazing (and very German).

I can also recommend the German film Enlightenment Guaranteed. Funny and thought provoking. Two German brothers go to a Zen monastery in Japan, what they find in themselves makes one wonder why we keep chasing our tails.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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