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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Day 11: Franklin's List

80 days is a long time for a 20-year-old to be on a ship, especially in 1728. Few actually “went along for the ride” as mere passengers on a vessel. There was an expectation that each person accomplish a measure of work while on board at the very least; regardless, there remains plenty of time for a young man to think. This is what Benjamin Franklin did on his return trip to Philadelphia from London--he thought.

A common practice of Franklin’s time was for a man to construct a set of resolutions. The young Franklin came away from this return voyage with a short list of traits that ultimately became a list of virtues that he would practice until the age of 79, noting by his own admission that he often failed in his attempt though remained faithful to the spirit of the endeavor.

As an older man he confessed that despite his shortcomings he felt he was far more happier having tried. In other words, he did not achieve the moral perfection expected from the virtues, but he found himself to be a virtuous man. And that’s the point of finding virtue: becoming a whole person.

Here is the list of virtues Franklin developed:

1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and 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 employed 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 extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.

11. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

12. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Franklin focused on one trait per week, creating a chart for himself by which he could record his progress. His goal was to not make any marks on his chart, no “black marks” against himself. Of course when he began, the number of marks were surprising even to him. But imagine his personal reward when making fewer marks!

What do I intend to do with this? How will I apply this to my own life?

I believe it would be a noble effort to try, but Franklin made this list for himself. He knew himself better than anyone and no two people are alike. For myself, perhaps the best starting point is to begin where Franklin began: with thought. With introspection. Self-examination. This brain is just too busy and I need to slow down and take inventory.

I heard someone say recently that "'thought' is a fancy word that means, 'to change one's mind' so it would be good to think--or die an idiot."  

A pond after a storm is murky, muddy. Over time, the silt settles, the water becomes clear and one can see the bottom. 

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