The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The 36 Strategies: #27, Be Wise But Play the Fool

Next the The Art of War by Sun Tzu, the 36 Strategies in the mostly widely known collection of strategic thought. The 36 Strategies seeks to impart the art of strategic thinking through 36 maxims. Even if you are not now planning on seeking world domination, it pays to learn about strategic thinking so that you are aware and can take steps when someone is attempting to apply a strategy against you.

#27 is Be Wise, but Play the Fool. In short, appear less than you are so that your opponents underestimate you. If your opponents don’t take you seriously, you have great freedom to act.

In literature, the most widely known example of this strategy can be found in Shakespeare's Hamlet. On the death of his father, Prince Hamlet exaggerated the extent of his mourning to the point of feigning madness in order to throw off his enemies. First, this was a strategy of survival, as he wasn’t quite sure who was indeed his enemy and who was not. Secondly, this provided him a cover under which he plotted taking action on his own.

In history, the most widely known example may be the story of The 47 Ronin. The retainers of Lord Asano, who had been wrongfully forced to commit suicide scattered all over Japan apparently leading lives of dissipation in order to lull the object of their hatred, Lord Kira, into complacency. They gave up their families and homes. After some years passed, Lord Kira came to believe that the former retainers of Asano no longer represented a danger to him.

It was then on a snowy winter night, that the 47 followers of Lord Asano gathered to extract their revenge.

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