Monday, October 29, 2012

What They Say: What was that Mr. Franklin?

By JccKeith

For all those saying,
 "That's not Benjamin Franklin!"
I was just testing you,
 this is Thomas Jefferson.
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

Alright, this is technically not a mantra created by the collective ‘they.’  This is more ‘What He Said.”  In fact, I believe Benjamin Franklin said it and the rest of the world just repeated it.

Wow.  All the secrets of life revealed in one crystal clear statement.  You can be healthy, wealthy and wise and all you have to do is go to bed early and get up early.  It’s that simple people.  Or at least it seems simple enough, a basic recipe for happiness.

The problem is that Benjamin Franklin is like one of those people who gives directions but leaves out a turn or two.  Franklin gives us the secret to health, wealth and wisdom but leaves out some crucial details.  You know, those pesky little details about how going to bed early and getting up early rewards you with wealth.  

Testing you again,
Not Benjamin Franklin.  This
is Abraham Lincoln
  • The last time I checked, wealth was the result of work not sleep.

And how does going to bed early give you wisdom?
  • I’ve checked up on this and it would seem that the acquisition of wisdom is the result of study, experience, reading and learning.  Unless you are capable of those things in your sleep then I suggest visiting your local library or even your nearest internet connection.

What about all that health?
  • Health is the only thing I could honestly say may occur as the result of early bedtime and early rising.  Getting enough sleep is crucial for both mental and emotional wellbeing.

Nope, not a young Ben Franklin,
This is James Madison
Having said all of the above, I think Franklin’s quote could be rewritten for clarity.  One might rephrase it as “Early to bed, after a lot of hard work, early to rise, to get to work early or on time, early to be the one who asks questions, makes a person healthy, semi-wealthy and a little smarter.”

Or hey, Benjamin could have elaborated on his two step plan.  It might start out with pertinent information such as:

1.      Determine your strengths and weaknesses.  Work on the weaknesses and find ways to use your strengths.

2.      Plot out your immediate goals, your five year goals and ten year goals.  Make a step by step plan on how to achieve those goals.  Make each step reasonable, achievable and within a set time frame.

3.      Get a job, go to work, do well at work and find whatever knowledge you can by listening to others, listening to those older and wiser than yourself, learning from your mistakes and learning whatever you can from your job.

4.      Always be on time, plan ahead.

5.      Check in with a doctor for regular check-ups and heed your doctor’s advice.

6.      Go to bed as early as possible.  Get a full night’s sleep.

7.      Get up early, after a full night of sleep.

8.      Be nice and friendly to others because you’ve had a full night’s sleep.

9.      Don’t spend every penny you make, save as much as possible

10.   Enjoy your health, your wealth and your wisdom

Here he is, the man himself,
Benjamin Franklin
It’s not that I like to pick apart Benjamin Franklin’s quotes, because the man really was brilliant, but the recent flood of similar quotes on facebook has annoyed me.  I just feel the need to point out some of the flaws in these magic recipes for happiness in life.  Does anyone else ever put any thought into these quotes?  

Am I the only one who questions the glossy appearance of these phrases?  Is it so bad to dig a little deeper to figure out how profoundly empty these sayings are?

What is going on in this world of ours?  Why are we so willing to accept quotes from famous people without so much as a question about the inherent flaws of the statement?  What happened to questioning what you’re told?

Do we accept these quotes because we respect Benjamin Franklin?  Do we believe he is so incredible that nothing that comes out of his mouth could possibly be wrong, or misleading or lacking in depth?

Perhaps we swallow these gems of wisdom because they rhyme so well.  Rise rhymes with wise – how amazing is that?  I mean, nobody else could possibly come up with a quote that rhymes.  It is just so difficult. 

I’m no Benjamin Franklin but I could come up with some pearls myself:

"Late to bed, late to awake makes a man less of a flake"

"Late to bed and early up makes a man want his coffee cup"

Now how great are those?  You heard them here first.  When I become a famous writer you can all say you were the first to read these words to live by.

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