Archive for December, 2012

What if Benjamin Franklin were alive today; how would his twelve virtues apply to a modern-day setting?

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The next time you go into a tall building you may want to thank Benjamin Franklin. Had he not flown a kite during that storm we wouldn’t have tall buildings. Franklin’s experiment and his discovery that electricity is actually a current, lead to his invention of the lightning rod. Prior to that, many people died in buildings that caught fire after being struck by lightning. This just one example of how we, in our modern age of technology, still benefit from the brilliance of Benjamin Franklin. Many of Franklin’s inventions could have made him a lot of money. Yet he chose not to patent his inventions; his motives were to benefit a greater good.

Many historians and biographers have written extensively about Franklin and his many accomplishments, but there was one historical piece of information that is not widely known or as popular. Franklin attributed much of his success to guidelines for living life that he wrote. Franklin called this his twelve virtues. These twelve virtues were comprehensive rules he prescribed for leading a successful and content life. Keep in mind Franklin wrote these twelve virtues in a time when there was no television, internet, cell phones, or satellite communication. The following is a review of those twelve virtues, and a simple interpretation of how they may apply today.

Temperance

Temperance calls for a person to avoid overindulgence in food or drink. By conquering your primal urges for food and drink, you’ll have the confidence to start making improvements in other areas of your life. The term “ Super-size” sure does ring a bell here. If you look at current statistics you’ve heard it said; we are an obese nation. Too much of anything is not good.

Silence

A person must learn when and when not to open their mouth. It’s ok to say nothing if what you’re going to say is inappropriate or makes no sense.  Not only is it better to be silent that look like a fool, but this applies to friendship as well. Often times being silent can be constructive because it gives the other person a chance to talk and increases your listening skills. Shut up and listen; most often people don’t want advice, they want to be heard. The best thing you can do is just listen to them vent or talk about their problem. Most of the time when people talk like this they’ll work it out on their own without your wonderful words of wisdom. Just be silent and listen.

Order

If a person wishes to thrive in this world they must develop order. But the laws of physics tell us that the universe and everything in it tends towards chaos and disorganization. A person must fight against these natural laws and the path of least resistance. Yet taking on complex organization will only cause more imbalances in your life. Instead make small changes by rectifying each slip in to disorganization the moment it happens. Wouldn’t life be wonderful if you could change everything, but the reality is; you can’t. But you can change, organize, or make sense of one thing at a time.

Resolution

Resolution is the firm determination to accomplish what you set out to do. For example, look at how Alexander the Great conquered the island of Tyre. An easy way to do this is have a main goal, then set smaller daily goals that will lead up to the main or long-range goal. At the end of each day reflect “What have I done today”. This sounds easy but is not. If you have to answer that question with “nothing”, the next day it will be in the back of your mind and you will accomplish something. Even if it’s something small, it will be an accomplishment.

Frugality

Credit cards and charge accounts are a double edge sword. They allow a person to purchase something they need now and pay later, but they also have many consequences. One good thing about the recent recession; it has forced our society to back off on spending habits just as our grandparents learned do to from living through the great depression.  This is why frugality has made a comeback. To put it simply; Spend less money than you earn.

Industry

Hard work is paramount to success. But has being industrious become no longer trendy with today’s “get rich quick” or “easy payout” temptations? The truth is the rich didn’t get that way with minimum effort. Well, not legally. Ask any millionaire and they’ll tell you it took goal setting, planning, and determination. Recent studies suggest winning the state lottery is not always a good thing. A majority of Lotto winners go bankrupt within five years of winning. Perhaps the term “easy money” is an oxymoron.

Sincerity

This electronic age with the quick exchange of information and anonymity has had a profound our society at large. I’m sure you’ve noticed on blogs and social network websites a prevalence of gossip, lying, and sarcasm. With this in mind, let me a couple of questions; what influence has this had on our society at large? Has this become a social norm or status quo that has infiltrated our real life as well? We are the ones that define the rules of our society. It seems there are more “gray areas” in terms of social acceptance than there were before. Is this a good thing?

Justice

In addition to standing up for those who are disadvantaged, there is another facet to justice; when you feel strongly about a topic or involved in an argument, try to consider the other point of view. Theses no doubt there are an abundance of apathy and ignorance in our society, but we can work to change that one person at a time. Let’s start with ourselves. Find out how you can develop the virtue of justice in your life as well as areas that you can implement the virtue.

Moderation

The easiest way to define moderation is use it as the opposite of greed. We all want more in our lives. More material items like the newest car, the latest electronic gadgets, computers, clothes, jewelry and other trappings do not define the person we are. Living a good life and having what you want is one thing, but are you crossing a line when it causes you stress to get it? Sometimes “Keeping up with the Jones” is not a good thing.

Cleanliness

This virtue tells other people a lot about you, and it also tells you a lot about yourself. Not only does this have a profound effect on a person’s self image, but it also includes a discipline that helps to increase attention and order. Cleanliness includes more than just appearance; it also includes your surroundings as well. In a clean environment, you’ll function much better in it.

Tranquility

The ability to control anger is just one aspect of tranquility. Making sure your living space is tranquil is also important. Another way to achieve tranquility is to “weed out” or do not give power to those toxic people in your day-to-day lives. You know the ones I’m referring to; the acquaintances in your life who are stressful and invoke that in others by being argumentative or constantly focusing on the negative. They’re draining energy from you, get rid of them, you don’t need them. Focusing on tranquility has more benefits; it can give you a sense of well-being and improve your health. You can look inward for tranquility as well; do you ever keep thinking things like “what if this happens, or what if they do this”? That’s called Mental Masturbation and is not at all constructive.

Chastity

Today, in a society where we’re constantly bombarded by sex in movies, TV, commercials, and almost everywhere else we look. This virtue seems to be outdated. Perhaps this is why one hundred years ago, people married for life. Currently, fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. If I may ask; have we cheapened the act of sex by turning it into a conquest instead of an exchange of love and emotions on several different levels? Recently there was a trendy question; “What is your number?” The higher your number gets could that possibly make it harder for you to love just one person and experience a true and fulfilling love?

    It’s amazing to thing a man sat and wrote these guidelines over two hundred years ago and they’re just as relevant as they were then. Maybe this is a testament to Benjamin Franklin’s keen insight into human nature. That’s pretty impressive for a man who had never taken a psychology class. There’s no doubt we needed Franklin to live in the time he did; we needed that progress to take place at that time. But just think of how he could influence and shape mankind if he were alive today. Something old with something new; maybe we could better handle our marvels of technology if we combine them with ideologies of the past.

 

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