How To Become A Thinking Person

We all know Socrates. One of the world’s earliest and well-known philosopher, Socrates, was also kind of a weird guy. This short excerpt from Alain de Botton’s documentary A Guide to Happiness makes a pretty good case for Socrates’ behavioral oddities, listing things like not bathing nor washing his garb, not wearing footwear and, worst of them all, creeping out Athenians of his time by randomly approaching them on the street and asking grand questions about life and the human experience. Beyond those quirks, He was also a man of extraordinary insight and insatiable curiosity. Couple that with his fearless non-conformist attitude, you not only have a man who will go on to define the maddening exercise called ‘philosophy‘, but also a serious offender of  a few local laws of ancient Greece. Granted, those laws were the result of some ludicrously ignorant Athenians, but a majority of the citizens thought they were pretty good laws at that time. Socrates was democratically judged guilty – not of ignoring basic hygiene, which would have been totally fair, but of offending Greek Gods –  and so he drank the state administered poison and went limp. He believed that logical reasoning was the truest way to arrive at truth and through his death, he gave the world what must be the simplest, and yet, the most powerful, manifesto for anyone aspiring to be a thinking person.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVA8jX9KQcE%5D

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Benjamin Franklin’s To-Do List

Deep from the vaults of Lists of Note, comes this peculiar set of virtues from one of the most famous founders of the USA. Benjamin Franklin is easily my favorite among the white wigged men who drafted the US constitution simply because of his intellectual capacity which often seems boundless. The pot-bellied inventor, who was also an accomplished scientist, musician, philosopher and a diplomat, was also an excellent wordsmith, which, no doubt, came in handy when he was editing the drafts of the original constitution. Long before he became the 18th century version of the Dos Equis guy, he was a young adult figuring out how to make himself better. At the age of 20, is when he came up with this list shown below which he published in his auto-biography. He decided to dedicate one week for each item in the list practicing and mastering them as he grew up to become a renowned statesman. Given his physical size, it is easy to guess that ‘Go to Gym’ was not part of his list but the things he had in them sure make it a powerful one.

1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; 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 employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary 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; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

11. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.


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