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Cultura, y aliño. Nace bárbaro el hombre, redímese de bestia cultivándose. Hace personas la cultura, y más cuanto mayor. En fe de ella pudo Grecia llamar bárbaro a todo el restante universo. Es muy tosca la ignorancia; no hay cosa que más cultive que el saber. Pero aun la misma sabiduría fue grosera, si desaliñada. No sólo ha de ser aliñado el entender, también el querer, y más el conversar. Hállanse hombres naturalmente aliñados, de gala interior y exterior, en concepto y palabras, en los arreos del cuerpo, que son como la corteza, y en las prendas del alma, que son el fruto. Otros hay, al contrario, tan groseros, que todas sus cosas, y tal vez eminencias, las deslucieron con un intolerable bárbaro desaseo.
Culture and Elegance. Man is born a barbarian and raises himself above the beastly by means of culture. Culture therefore makes the man; the more a man, the higher. Thanks to it, Greece could call the rest of the world barbarians. Ignorance is very raw; nothing contributes so much to culture as knowledge. But even knowledge is coarse if without elegance. Not alone must our intelligence be elegant, but our desires, and above all our conversation. Some men are naturally elegant in their internal and external qualities, in their thoughts, in their address, in their dress, which is the rind of the soul, and in their talent, which is its fruit. There are others, on the other hand, who are so crude that everything about them, even their excellences, is tarnished by an intolerable and barbaric disorder.
–Baltasar Gracián y Morales, Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia § lxxxvii (1647)(S.H. following J. Jacobs transl. 1892).
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”