As long as there have been generations advice has been passed from elder to child and those who bestowed such information were looked upon as sage-like and wise. Older individuals were assumed to have accrued knowledge and wisdom from their own personal trials and tribulations. It became a perfectly natural set of circumstances that parceling out answers to a child’s question or giving advice was the job of a parent and grandparent; a responsibility they inherited from the previous generation of elders…
However, that was once the course of action taken from the beginning of time until we have turned over the pages of the calendar to the present. Alas, today, finding and retrieving information, getting an answer to a question, seeking advice, these missions have all has been usurped and supplanted by the internet.
We live in an age where there is not only a demand but an expectation for instantaneous results; where retrieval is met with little patience for wait time. Just a “google away” one can eliminate the “middle man; no longer does a child have to wait for a parent to come home from work or interrupt their reading of the newspaper to get an answer. Now they are able to bypass this hierarchal position that has been “outsourced” by the internet.
So unfortunate does it appear to be for parents who yearn to be adviser and confidant… however, before one laments take heed… for in fact it is the child who we should be sad for. The internet may be able to answer with lightning speed, but it remains to be a rather cold and unaffectionate replacement for these sages.
Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), one of America’s “Founding Fathers”. The list of his accolades are so numerous that it shall be limited here to statesman, philosopher, inventor, publisher, scientist, and sage. Barely rivaled, his illustrious career and writings make him a favored celebrity in America’s lively history. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, his father, Josiah, had come to the British colony and set up shop as a candle maker, while his mother, Abiah Folger, took care of the home and ten children. His parents could not afford to get him an education, so Benjamin had only two years of formal schooling, however, his curiosity and thirst for learning kept him reading anything he could get his hands on, culminating in a most illustrious life.
His work in the sciences included shaping our understanding of electricity with inventions such as the lightening rod. As a statesman during the time when the United States was finding its own voice and independence, he was one of five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence (1776).
And so, I bring you back to the early days when writing was the only way of communicating to those who were not in speaking distance. From his autobiography, Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin (1834) we will see that even such a great and wise man as he was took time to listen and reflect on his father’s advice.
“… I suppose you may like to know what kind of a man my father was. He had an excellent constitution, was of a middle stature, well set, and very strong: he could draw prettily, was a little skilled in music; his voice was sonorous and agreeable, that when he played on his violin and sung withal, as he was accustomed to do after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had some knowledge of mechanics, and, on occasion, was very handy with other tradesmen’s tools; but his great excellence was his sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and public affairs. It is true, he was never employed in the latter, the numerous family he had to educate and the strictness of his circumstances keeping him close to his trade: but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading men, who consulted him for his opinion in public affairs, and those of the church he belonged to, and who showed great respect for his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties. At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbour to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavour, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was brought up in such a perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent as to what kind of food was set before me. Indeed, I am so unobservant of it, that to this day I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner of what dishes it consisted. This has been a great convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites…”
First image: Created / PublishedNew York : Published by S. Zickel, No. 19, Dey-Street, c1871.
Second image: Benjamin Franklin: reproduction (1913) by Charles Willson Peale, 1741-1827, artist