“Plan out your life wisely.” This is the first sentence of the 229th maxim by Baltasar Gracian from his book The Art of Worldly Wisdom. In this concise and illuminating piece, Gracian encourages us to “plan with foresight” and thus regain and, to some extent, control certain aspects of our life. He also proposes a strategy for expanding one’s life and knowledge. Gracian proposes three steps toward a balanced life:
Day 1: Conversation with the Dead – Fill your day with the study of and meditation on those who have come before you and those who are no longer with us. This day could be spent reading treasured books, listening to old records, observing the architectural works of long-forgotten designers, and so on. Through this careful study of those who have passed, we may come to see new aspects of ourselves or create fresh aspects of self. We may blossom through knowledge.
Day 2: Among the People – On this day one goes out and spends time among other living flesh-and-blood people. Spend the day listening to close friends or family, strike up a conversation with someone you have never met, volunteer your services, observe and listen to others in a public place, travel to a different country and spend time with people whose customs are not your own. Through real human interaction, we open ourselves to the Vulnerable, to the Unexpected. We mirror each other, we share life through our communication with others.
Day 3: The Hermit – I will use Gracian’s exact words as they shine in their precision: “The third day is entirely for oneself. The greatest happiness is to be a philosopher.”