Saturday, July 16, 2011

Some Lessons from Benjamin Franklin

So I've been reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and I am so impressed by this man. Firstly he was raised by a wise father who "liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life." I can only imagine what a huge impact this had on Franklin for he seemed on improving himself for the rest of his life. There was no petty gossip in his teenage life. He made friends with those who among himself, loved reading. They would go into the woods and read aloud to each other and discuss ideas, themes, poetry... I can't even imagine a group of boys in high school reading to each other like that. Too bad though, Franklin makes a good point later saying, "Influence upon the private character, late in life, is not only an influence late in life, but a weak influence. It is in youth that we plant our chief habits and prejudices; it is in youth that we take our party as to profession, pursuits and matrimony."

Another quote from him that I thought was very interesting about the religions of that time, "These I esteem'd the essentials of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, tho' with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mix'd with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, promote or confirm morality, serv'd principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another."

A few years later Franklin tells about 13 virtues which at that time were necessary and desirable to him. He gives his own definition of what they mean and puts them in a specific order at which to work at attaining them.
1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. MODERATION. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
11. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
"Temperance first, as it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up... This being acquir'd and establish'd, Silence would be more easy. This and the next Order, I expected would allow me more time for attending to my project and my studies. Resolution once become habitual, would keep me firm in my endeavors to obtain all the subsequent virtues; Frugality and Industry freeing me from my remaining debt and producing affluence and independence, would make more easy the practice of Sincerity and Justice, ect., ect."
Franklin goes on to say, "I was supris'd to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish."

Now can you imagine any leader of any nations right now having this on their mind? I would be shocked and surprised if any of them were striving like this to better themselves.

Anyways, one last quote.
"In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on the whole, tho' I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it."


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