This morning my thoughts drifted to what I perceive as more intellectual times. I’m certain that technology, while befitting our lifestyles bent toward busyness and instant gratification, has gifted so many great benefits to our everyday lives….yet at the same time I can’t help but lean towards a contrarious position with the notion it has contributed to our cerebral demise. Speaking in generalities as a culture, we read less, fail to question what we do read, and lean on the internet and social media as solid information sources of convincing proportions. When I read about Ben Franklin or any of our founding fathers, I’m in awe of the remarkable contributions these men made to our society. They were well read, seeking discernment and wisdom at every turn. Knowledge was the cornerstone of their lives and they well understood the importance of critical thinking. Puppets on a string would never describe these brilliant men of conviction and fortitude. To aspire to any of their many attributes leaves me overwhelmed with an astounding meditation on falling short.
Nevertheless, one must start somewhere to improve. That’s where Ben comes in. In 1727, he created a club consisting of 12 acquaintenances whom met every week for 40 years. They all shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community and to help others. It was a structured forum for discussion and all parties came from diverse backgrounds. Born from some of these discussions sprang volunteer fire-fighting organizations, public hospitals, the American Philosophical Society (which still exists today!) and night watchmen for improved security. The evenings consisted of questions for positive discussion which centered around personal, business, community, political and other topics. There were rules of engagement as this was a club founded and centered on mutual improvement.
What a concept! However simple, however rare! Ben was an interesting, fascinating and questioning character from the past whose views, sentiments and ideas could serve us well….if we made purposeful decisions to improve areas of our lives by borrowing some of his wisdom. I want to be more thoughtful, contemplative and a better reader. I desire to contribute something which might leave my mark on this world after I’m gone someday. And that brings me to a Ben Franklin quote among many, many of his wise sayings which goes like this “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” I’m still contemplating my improvement plan as there are so many areas that need improvement in this world that is me. How ’bout you?