Benjamin Franklin 8/16/2013
Having just finished the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, I am once again stirred by the simplicity of colonial life and by the complexities that simplicity draws. Dr. Franklin’s life a case in point, one can infer that our modern life with it’s imposed complexities is a soul draining tyranny, intent on the enslavement of the very lives the modern convenience’s are invented to free. Indeed, after having experienced some few of his admonitions against, I can only agree with him, that a man (or woman) compelled to inaction whether forced or by laziness is self directed to contention and mayhem, where those engaged in mind or body find a most pleasing satisfaction in the resulting weariness.
This is opposed to simple exercise which, while wearying, cannot compete with the bone tiring exertion of working the land, of digging a garden by hand, or the exhausting task of building a simple shed. Each of these and many other jobs well done exhibit, in the end, a sense of well being lasting far beyond the immediate as each subsequent use will remind of the toil sustained in the original work. And knowing the usefulness of a thing well made is a lasting component of the thing increases its intrinsic value to those who build and use it.
Franklin also was gifted with humility, a simplicity of the mind if you will. True humility will always manifest in ways hard to explicate. The humble person will recognize the gift given but cannot glory in it. Humility must needs be exercised and used, though, or it will vanish away leaving in its wake a vainglorious and contentious person. Humility is expressed in a willingness to help others, not in just a charitable way, but in ways that can profit oneself, as in assisting others in setting up a business, or helping to engage in public servitude one so willing to do. Humility leaves a legacy of goodwill behind, and softens the grain of uncertainty that lies ahead.
I believe it will behoove us to practice the virtues extolled in the autobiographies of people we admire. Enjoying reading what people write of themselves seems an exercise in vanity but oftimes the insights of hindsight provide a far better gift to the reader than the high-minded speculations men of other times often indulge in. This is a good time of year for reading, long winter nights, cold winds, and warm fires. My plan is to reread The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, marking what books he read, and read them. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a little of that which made him great.