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Unos principios de crédito sirven de despertar la curiosidad, no de empeñar el objecto. Mejor sale quando la realidad excede al concepto y es más de lo que se creyó. Faltará esta regla en lo malo, pues le ayuda la mesma exageración; desmiéntela con aplauso, y aun llega a parecer tolerable lo que se temió extremo de ruin.
Honorable beginnings should serve to awaken curiosity, not to heighten people’s expectations. We are much better off when reality surpasses our expectations, and something turns out better than we thought it would. This rule does not hold true for bad things: when an evil has been exaggerated, its reality makes people applaud. What was feared as ruinous comes to seem tolerable.
–Baltasar Gracián y Morales, Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia § 19 (1647)(J. Jacobs transl. 1892)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”