Know how to play the Card of Contempt

Know how to play the Card of Contempt. It is a shrewd way of getting things you want, by affecting to depreciate them: generally they are not to be had when sought for, but fall into one’s hands when one is not looking for them.

As all mundane things are but shadows of the things eternal, they share with shadows this quality, that they flee from him who follows them and follow him that flees from them. Contempt is besides the most subtle form of revenge. It is a fixed rule with the wise never to defend themselves with the pen. For such defence always leaves a stain, and does more to glorify one’s opponent than to punish his offence. It is a trick of the worthless to stand forth as opponents of great men, so as to win notoriety by a roundabout way, which they would never do by the straight road of merit.

There are many we would not have heard of if their eminent opponents had not taken notice of them. There is no revenge like oblivion, through
which they are buried in the dust of their unworthiness. Audacious persons hope to make themselves eternally famous by setting fire to one of the wonders of the world and of the ages. The art of reproving scandal is to take no notice of it, to combat it damages our own case; even if credited it causes discredit, and is a source of satisfaction to our opponent, for this shadow of a stain dulls the lustre of our fame even if it cannot altogether deaden it.

Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom

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