Benjamin Franklin: Geeke Or Nerde
Charting Your Virtues...All 13 Of Them
This past weekend was odd in that I kept receiving telephone calls from the people that provide me beauty services. The first call was from the hair stylist to pass on that another stylist had "quit" rather abruptly (I later heard "fired,") and "what does it all mean", keeping in mind that my stylist recently had a house built on the Eastern Shore and is commuting back to the Washington area mid-week to work. I'm asking myself how much longer they will be around. Then my manicurist called to tell me she's quitting and moving to a new upscale spa where she will have better pay and full health coverage, but concerns over losing clients and would I be following her and so forth (yes on the following), and then I heard from the skin esthetician who called to say the owner of her shop was moving to New Hampshire where her husband is being relocated for work, and the owner will be managing the salon from there. We went over her concerns about someone trying to manage a long-distance business and how long that situation would last before it collapsed, affecting her future business and would I be following (yes), and thus it went so that by this morning I was thinking of blogging a piece about the transitory nature of beauty services and how we either stay or shift and how often the shifting is done with some cross over back and forth to the same salons and spas, and the whole incestuous networking of the beauty field as a career. I was googling around this morning looking for a photograph of an old-fashioned chart made up of multi-colored pieces of string to show the confusion of these transitions, and while I was searching I stumbled onto something that sent me into an entirely different direction. When I told Direct Current about these changes in the game plan, he told me I was suffering from "BADD: Blog Attention Deficit Disorder." http://directcurrent.blogspot.com/
What altered my writing plan was this. I stumbled upon a photograph of a chart that Benjamin Franklin created to track his success in fulfilling life's 13 virtues. By further research I learned that Franklin devised this plan when he was 20 years old. Quoting from The Bible, Phillippians 4:8 : "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,think of these things." (King James Version). Taking this idea and running with it, Franklin created a list of 13 virtues:
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 unneccessary 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 uncleaniness 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 no disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
From everything I read, Franklin followed this plan until late in his life, mapping out on his charts whether or not he had succeeded with his day. He tracked out his progress by using a little book of 13 charts. At the top of each chart was the name of the virtue, and the chart had a column for each day of the week, with thirteen rows marked with the first letter of each of the virtues. At the end of each day, he would review his day, it's successes and failures, and he would dutifully make a circular dot mark next to the virtue for each fault he believed he had committed that day: his ultimate goal being, of course, to have a chart that was mark free. I've read that at first he found the pages covered with dots, but as time went on he began to see the dots diminish. To quote from Wikipedia, "He eventually realized that perfection was not to be attained, but felt himself better and happier because of his attempt."
What a nerd! If they had pocket protectors in the 18th-century, you just know Franklin would have been wearing one. I'm surprised he didn't take it further and use different colored inks to mark his levels of failure: blue (not too much off the mark), black (about average), and red (whoa!). Little gold and silver stars when he had a bang-up day of success. If Franklin were alive today, I have no doubt he would have been the inventor of the emoticons. :) I loved the idea that he always had these projects going, checking his progress and knowing he was falling short of perfection, still ending up better than when he started off. Franklin would have been an amazing software engineer. Binary code was meant for him. He could write (wait for it) Benary code. And you just know he'd be at every Trekkie convention. It's logical. ;)