Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An Ecological Event

Currently enjoying reading Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. He is now in London living with the entertaining widow lady with the gout. This is an outrageous book! Franklin was a master of writing skill. I think that might be one of the main attractions of the book for me. He is opening up his mind to me. When I was reading a passage to Joy yesterday I was imagining I was Benjamin Franklin talking to her. Then I remembered Emerson’s quote, about MY (yes, he was as if talking to ME) having access to the minds of many great men who have left it here for us. Their hereafter? Can’t doubt that, can you? Now I am wondering if it was really B. F. taking over my body. I am imagining it wasn’t! I remember when I was reading it to Joy I was talking with a talking with a Boston accent!

I am going to have to keep an eye on that rascal. He has already admitted that since he didn’t believe in a deity he had an excuse for not having any morals. Was he trying to make out with Joy? I think human beings, including Benjamin Franklin, are born with a moral sense, just like chickadees and titmice. Can it be that even before we are able to think linguistically, before we can talk at all, we innocently embrace a philosophy of life that is tainted with immorality? Are we led astray (literally seduced), by a culture that teaches that might makes right? A sick top down system that blinds us to the deeper morality we share with the birds and other less mighty, who then collectively blow the whistle on us?

I haven’t watched the cartoons lately. Are they still as violent as they were when my children and grandchildren were kids? And how rare is it to see an ad on TV that doesn’t have a little message for us along violent lines? Archie Bunker said a couple of days ago that “capital punishment is good because it is a detergent to crime.” Emerson said that punishment causes crime.

Keep an open mind. Look, listen, and question. Think for yourself but don’t believe everything you think. Or find in print, especially on the Web. An old Unitarian aphorism is, “To question is the answer.”

Franklin early in the book talks about his learning about this process. The Socratic Method. He got into the same kind of trouble Socrates did, though, confronting others, with their ignorance, while Socrates was busily teaching all the young people in Athens to question their superiors. Being a smart ass can cost you your life. Main difference is that Franklin learned to back off a little, when it only cost him some friends. He feigned meekness, thereafter, when he engaged someone in the process. Remember, that’s how Colombo, with dog leash tied to his rear view mirror, did it!

I am imagining that Franklin’s success in international relations was undergirded by his expertise in respectful dialogue, where everybody wins, in contrast to debate, where even the winner loses something.