“Buy in hope. Trust in fear.” and Other Useful Aphorisms

An aphorism (from the Greek apo (= from), and horos (= boundary)) is a poignant and memorable observation that petitions the reader to accept a universal truth.

In The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism James Geary refers to aphorisms as “literature’s hand luggage.” Aphorisms are compact stories, honed precisely to reveal an entire world in highly economical form. In the book, Geary claims all good aphorisms share five essential components they’re: brief, definitive, philosophical, personal, and have a twist. He says:

“aphorisms are not bits of uplifting text meant for passive consumption. They are challenging statements that demand a response: either the recognition of a shared insight … or a rejection and retort.

Because by definition aphorisms aim for universal truths, they apply to everyone, and require more thought than just short statements. Aphorisms are profound. German poet Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel said that aphorisms are the true form of the universal philosophy.

All writers experiment with aphorisms at some point or another. Good writers have the patience to rehearse a thousand words before they find the right one –- to go back to the point on clarity and patience. La Rochefoucauld spent half his life tinkering away at his aphorisms:

Our virtues are most frequently but vices in disguise.

Passion often renders the most clever man a fool, and even sometimes renders the most foolish man clever.

Corporate Advocate Peter Tunjic says aphorisms require mental preparation to unlock their meaning. Some of his original aphorisms include:

“Buy in hope. Trust in fear.”

“Far less thought goes into making history than remembering it.

People will resolutely defend their idea but will be terrified explaining it.

As Geary concludes in the end of A History of Aphorisms, aphorisms are the elixir of life, for only they tell it like it really is.



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