Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"Wit makes its own welcome, and levels all distinctions. No dignity, no learning, no force of character, can make any stand against good wit."
I just came upon this quote and am astonished at the brilliance of this epigram.
I have been in various occupations along all sorts of men: low, middle, and high and have noticed on my own that a man of wit who can express sharp sense to men who are low, middle, or high -- enough to elicit their nods, recognition, agreement, or laughter -- is indeed a man for all seasons and company, and in fact shines above and finds himself made welcome in all sort of company.
Most people do not see the funny, ironic, absurd, silly, sardonic, or ridiculous in many situations so that the man who amiably points out the obvious and incongruent is likely to be cheered and welcomed as a good mate.
The man who can put other men's feelings into lucid and funny expression is always at home among any caste of people.
Not to celebrate myself so much, I want to observe that in all my various occupations from menial to better than that, other people have usually enjoyed my company since I temper my wit (what I have of it) to the level of water I have dripped into.
It's a bit like where St. Paul says he is all things to all men. One adjusts one's discourse to the company he is in. It isn't condescending, per se, as simply recognizing the understanding of another and playing to it.
I had never thought of wit, in and of itself, as being so subversive or leveling, yet the most powerful and richest man in the world is helpless before a coruscating wit, a skewering observation.