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“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Meticulously written with old takes on an otherwise contentious topic like war, written to highlight the multi-dimensional implications of its central topic, The Art of War is a book meant for all levels of readers regardless of whether they are beginners, at an intermediate level, or advanced and voracious book worms.
This book is known well as a timeless classic of East Asian culture and history, but it will not be wrong to say that it is a timely classic abounding in wisdom, advice, and higher-order thinking. The book is bound to make readers ponder over the sayings and wonder at the limitless wisdom that the ancients held in a time when there was little advancement in technology.
It is an ancient Chinese text which is better termed a treatise written by Sun Tzu, who was a 6th-century warrior philosopher. According to traditional historians, there is a consensus that Sun Tzu lived between 544- 496 BC, and apparently, his name at birth was Sun Wu.
The theme of the book as its title suggests is about the philosophy behind fighting the enemy and the politics of warfare, and the strategies that will lead to successful military interventions effortlessly. This has a lot to do with the scientific manner of relaying the ideas that make this text not only informative but also interesting.
The ideas of this book are meant to serve beyond its literal ends of planning and propagating battle strategies, and also include the philosophical side of life and the battles that each individual is bound to face. It is this notion of being at war with the darkness of life to be able to tackle these difficulties and emerge as a victor. The book also serves to ward off the victim mentality and to instill the value of fighting against the odds no matter how bleak the situation and circumstances look.
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
It is with this sense of positive outlook that fighting for life becomes an art that Sun Tzu helps the reader to master through his adages. These are more logical tactics and strategic methods that will help boost the reader’s understanding of the backstage situation of war. This book has been so deeply and widely read that almost all global leaders are familiar with it and have drawn extensively from Sun Tzu’s wise sayings.
The text is divided into 13 chapters and all ideas are presented in numbered points. This eases the reading process as readers do not need to skim through lengthy passages and jot down the ideas. It reduces the hassle and does the homework for the reader too. It only asks for attentive reading while the text caters to the thought process of readers by acknowledging and understanding that not all readers have an equal amount of time and attention span.
Hence, the ideas are put forth without too much of instructive guidelines and this leaves room for readers to interpret and make the most of what is being conveyed by Sun Tzu.
“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Each chapter has a certain theme that is then elaborated in the points noted in the chapter. While fighting with energy and a good tactical plan is important, the emphasis of the text is on the laying down of proper plans that are rational, organised, systematic, and require less impromptu thinking on behalf of the warrior at the battleground.
The concept is that this reduces the risks of going unplanned at war and it transfers full control onto the warrior without letting the enemy or opposition see how well-prepared the troop is.
The text covers almost all the aspects of war and particularly the various areas of a warzone. This includes the importance of the positioning of soldiers and warriors as a part of the military strategy to fool spies and enemy warriors undercover, to the behavior that is expected from warriors, and the counter-treatment of troops in order to have a foolproof dynamic strategy that will lead to a definite victory.
However, the text is not only restricted to the physical aspects of war but also goes in-depth towards the psychology of war and being a warrior. It delves into subjects such as the need for and how diplomacy should be conducted by assuring the proper cultivation of relationships with other states.
The moot point of the text is, in fact, not to go to war with other states but to nip such a situation in its bud and to ensure that war can be avoided through peaceful talks and negotiations. Terse, crisp, and epigrammatic, the teachings of this text remain utterly significant, relatable, and relevant to modern-day readers.
The book is also not too lengthy at hardly 100 pages. It makes this more like a short pamphlet, but one that has a lot of density of thought and requires twice as much attention and dedication in deciphering the wisdom behind these thoughts.
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