Ben Franklin Was a Man Wiser Than Most

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One of our personal heroes is Benjamin Franklin. We’ve read several biographies about the great man and have always marveled at his capacity to think and act on such a global scale. He is an exemplar well worth following and we try to daily.

Sometimes when we’re stuck in traffic we like to play a little game with Franklin. As we plod along, we pick subjects out of the air or the environment next to the overwhelmed freeway and ask ourselves, “I wonder what Franklin would have thought of that?”

Music? “The rhythms are not wholly unpleasant, but the songs are not so pleasingly tuneful. I imagine such productions are an acquired taste which I have not yet cultivated.”

Cars? “This wagon, capable of such speeds and versatile in the highest, is surely a godsend, but you say it dirties the air and the water and burns a fuel not in plentiful supply. Surely this godsend will soon become a pox upon you and with that I cannot not abide.”

In the course of our daily reads, we came across one of Franklin’s less-well known inventions, despite the fact that it forms the basis for those Franklin Planners that are so in vogue amongst the management guru set. Franklin devised a plan to guide his daily life based on 13 basic virtues. We thought it would be illuminating to take those virtues and “update” them, as Franklin might have done, for life in the 21st Century.

  • Temperance: “Just because food and drink are freely available, do not feel obliged to consume it all. You will become diseased and surely be the subject of degrading comments, reality shows, and 12-step programs. Self-discipline is an admirable trait in all.”
  • Silence: “Silence is a powerful sword in the arsenal of persuasion. This is particularly true of the ruling classes, who more often than not, forget this important lesson. Speak not, lest you have something to say. The art of listening is more important than the art of portraiture. Practice it always by aspiring to become a true artist of the craft.”
  • Order: “A bird that lives in a disorderly nest will surely fall to the ground and learn the lesson of a place for everything and everything in its place. Distribute your time wisely and waste it not on trivial pursuit, the game or otherwise.”
  • Resolution: “Life is not a competition against your peers, it is a competition against yourself. Resolve to finish what you start, but be wise enough to change course if the situation dictates. A true leader understands the value of this advice and a leader who does not is more than a fool.”
  • Frugality: “Nations and individuals should have this in common – take on no debt you are unwilling to pay immediately, choose wisely those things to spend upon, and forego borrowing and credit cards when the swamp of their creation threatens to to consume the ship of your life.”
  • Industry: “Always work as if you are a fine craftsman writing computer code or serving in a McDonald’s. Take pride in your work, but do not let it define your life. It is as important to have time for yourself as it is to offer your industry to a commercial enterprise. Balance is the key and those infernal cell phones are the harbinger of its ruin.”
  • Sincerity: “Sincerity is the key to all that life offers and it takes more than a well-placed smirk or a well-turned lie to convince others of yours. Always speak honestly, offering opinions both good and bad, but remember to couch those truths in a civil and helpful manner.”
  • Justice: “Every person is entitled to the benefit of the doubt, but must also submit to the judgment of their peers. It is understandable that those who are accused may differ in opinion from yours, but they should hopefully see this and atone for their transgressions. If not, society should be prepared to act and act decisively for the good of all.”
  • Moderation: “Moderation is the root of the tree bearing the fruit of a good life. Do not do too much or too little of any single thing. Work to create a balance in all things you do, for it is only then that the tree of life will bear the fruit of true happiness.”
  • Cleanliness: “Being unclean or unkempt in this modern age is a shameful thing. Wash daily, after using the facilities, and for meals. Wear clean clothing of good repair and be well-groomed. Baggy pants showing the ass of stupidity are an abomination as are capri pants and all things camoflauge. If you see others unfortunate enough to not have the ability to maintain proper cleanliness, endeavor to help them. That person and society will both surely benefit.”
  • Chastity: “Always give as much of yourself as you request from those you love and respect those who say no as surely as you would engage those who say yes. Promiscuity is not the mark of the worldly, but rather the mark of a person who does not value love.”
  • Tranquility: “The value of casting petty annoyances to drift away upon the current cannot be underestimated. Trouble yourself only with the important things and leave the worrying about trifles to those who are small minded enough to engage them.”
  • Humility: “Model those exemplars who are of the highest quality, but do not be overly critical if you do not reach similar levels of perfection. History has softened their faults as it will surely soften yours. The effort, rather than the accomplishment of humility, is the important thing to which you should aspire.”

Oh Ben, where are you when we need you?

11 thoughts on “Ben Franklin Was a Man Wiser Than Most

  1. Those should be the new “Thirteen Commendments”… or rather “Thirteen Suggestive Guides to Live By”. But Commandments sounds so much better.

    Seriously, I love a lot of what Ben Franklin did and how he did it. Great post! It is a little ironic that in reading the list, each item does not seem very difficult in and of itself, but altogether you’d be hard pressed to find any big number of people even trying to abide by 5 or 6 of them.

  2. Sar,
    I think there is still a little inovative thinking being done. Unfortunately, it’s being done by elves in a hollow tree and the only thing they are allowed to turn out are chocolate chip cookies…very innovative cookies though.

    Hiromi,

    That’s the guy, but hey, you can’t be spot on the money all the time.

    Neil,

    I’d never considered it, but now that you mention it, there is a familial resemblence

  3. Dave,
    I didn’t say all of Franklin’s inventions were good, just inventive. One was a “magic” walking stick filled with oil that he would pour on lakes to smooth the surface. Impressive, but not very practical and certainly not eco-friendly. Then again, what was eco-friendly in those days?

    Mary,
    I feel as if I have lived the American dream now. You know you’ve become widely published when you’re sharing fridge space with drawings from the grandkids and menus from take-out places. Our gracious thanks for the high and and revered honor.

  4. I am copying your rewrite of Franklin’s wise words with wise editing by Poobah and it is going on the Refrigerator door (a place reserved for high inspiration). Thus, as the maddening crowd tramples through my house as they too often do – you will be as Franklin – revered.

  5. Franklin? Invent sporks? And here I thought you liked the guy.

    Great post, Poobah. I may just have to build you an altar after this one.

  6. Spork,

    So I’ve been told. BTW, one of the things I wondered about was what Franklin would think of sporks. Seems like the sort of thing he might come up with.

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