August 6, 2014
My name is Dave Begley. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. I was educated by the Jesuits.
Anonymity has its place on the Internet, but not on this blog with me. I am the author and editor.
I have always been a big fan of aphorisms, maxims, quotations and the like. I think they distill good common sense wisdom and usually in a few words. What I have found over the years that many of the same concepts have been frequently expressed but the words change.
My first real exposure to aphorisms dates to my junior year at Omaha’s Creighton Preparatory School. My Spanish teacher was Geraldo Machado and he frequently quoted Spanish aphorisms he had learned during his youth in Cuba. Mr. Machado had been a member of the Cuban national basketball team. He also had been in the army fighting Fidel Castro’s communist revolution. He narrowly escaped death at the hands of Castro’s firing squad and immigrated to Nebraska.
The one aphorism that Señor Machado regularly quoted that especially applied to us was, Estas como un pescado en tarina, con los ojos abiertos y no ves nada. (“You are like a fish in the market, with the eyes open but unable to see anything.”)
This saying caught my attention because at the time Omaha was the beef capital of America and the only fish I was familiar with was the fried kind served at McDonald’s or Joe Tess Place.
My interest in aphorisms was further reinforced by my physics teacher, Ron Bruno. From him I learned one of my favorites and most valuable aphorisms, “There is no free lunch in the universe.” This is true not only in physics, but in every aspect of modern life.
In 1992 I heard a radio piece on Christopher Maurer’s translation of Baltasar Gracian’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom.
I fell in love with that book and have been since then. It is an absolute marvel.
Gracian was a Spanish Jesuit and he published the book in 1647. One of the remarkable aspects of the book is the very modern sensibility of it. And, of course, the phrasing and writing is unlike anything else. The Spanish have a talent and affinity for creating short and pithy sayings of great value.
So the connection was made between me – a graduate of American Jesuit schools – and a Spanish Jesuit who wrote well before the founding of the American Republic.
The purpose of this blog is to comment on current events and, if possible, use some of Gracian’s words. Sometimes it will be an outright quotation of Gracian. Other times it will be a modern person’s words examined through Gracian’s wisdom. Some of the text will not strictly be an aphorism or maxim.
Gracian derived many of his aphorisms from the ancient Romans and Greeks. In that regard, “there is nothing new under the sun” and I hope to establish that is true from 1647 to 2014.