Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at Accidents common or unavoidable.
Tranquility is the lost art of mindlessness, if detachment, of letting going of petty things that keep us from being fully engaged in the world around us. I don’t expect Franklin was getting so deep on the alternative philosophy, American’s we’re so familiar with non-oxidental ways of worship, but the basic precept from tranquility has existing in nearly all social, religious, or political creeds for as long as recorded time has existed.
The first definition of the concept comes from, of course, the Greeks. Epicurus defined the state of “tranquility” - which he envisioned as the perfect state humans could acquire - as the state of tranquility from…
“…eschewing faith in an afterlife, not fearing the gods because they are distant and unconcerned with us, avoiding politics and vexatious people, surrounding oneself with trustworthy and affectionate friends and being an affectionate, virtuous person, worthy of trust.” (1)
I expect the “avoiding politics and vexatious people” portion of the statement was more up Franklin’s alley. In most of his published works, the word “tranquility” was used in conjunction with some statement against war or political uprising. In his political career, Franklin was a mediator intending to reach compromise between constantly arguing factions - it’s the primary reason he was sent to Britain before the revolutionary war.
The benefit of political calm is obvious - when there is stability between factions, there is prosperity and eace. It’s easier for a society to prosper. For Franklin, this would mean greater opportunity for economic and scientific growth. Personal calm didn’t seem to be that great a deal for him in his communications at least. At best, re discuss retirement as a way to remove himself from public affairs in letters to friends abroad, “I too am taking the proper Measures for obtaining Leisure to enjoy Life and my Friends more than heretofore…” (2) Though later in a letter to the same friend, “but I find the more I seek for leisure and retirement from business, the more I am engaged in it.” (3)
I imagine it is, in part, his own desire to stay popular - he enjoyed fame, especially abroad - but it doesn’t lend one to inner peace. Still, the idea hat one should not be annoyed at accidents even if they are setbacks is good advice and likely of the sort Franklin would follow. In business, especially in a printing press, rolling with the machinery and employees is a good idea. no sense in getting angry printing dozens of pages with a single letter backwards.
Fix it and get back to work.
For myself this week, maintaining calm, especially at work, over accidents or slights, is a good goal. People often have genuinely good intentions, and as in previous discussions (4) I prefer to assure people are predisposed to acting in a genuine fashion, and they just make mistakes.
1. Be not disturbed by trifles.
Similarly, it’s impossible to forever control anger as emotions run powerful in most people. If I find myself angry, step back from it to get perspective.
2. Step away from upset when realized. (Enhance your calm, John Spartan!)
And as ever with a word of encouragement, remember Poor Richard:
Anger is never without a Reason, but seldom with a good One.
2. Letter to Caldwallader Colden, 6/5 1747.↩︎
3. Letter to Caldwallader Colden, 9/28 1748.↩︎