Portrait of the Artist as a Man
December 28, 2014


Reference.com defines temperance as:

tem-per-uh ns, tem-pruh ns: noun

  1. moderation or self-restraint in action, statement, etc.; self-control.

  2. habitual moderation in the indulgence of a natural appetite or passion, especially in the use of alcoholic liquors.

  3. total abstinence from alcoholic liquors.

When Franklin laid out his Plan for Moral Perfection, his intent was to have each virtue would build upon the next and, hopefully, ease the acquistion of future virtues. Setting Temperance as the first in the list was intentional as, he believed, exercising his resolve would strengthen it and help support subsequent virtues.

I arrang’d them with that view, as they stand above. Temperance first, as it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits.

  • Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Chapter IX.

Temperance is unnatural; it runs counter to human evolution where safety and food were scarce and you needed to do what you could to maximize both. Nowadays where daily life is safe and access to food, pleasure, and entertainmaint is boundless, temperance is critical to maintain heath, weath, and wisdom. It would be easy to lose sight of your goal if you don’t define some sort of scope.

Franklin included a description that encapsulated his approach for the virtue at the top of the weekly grid. For Temperance it read:

Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Considering my own struggle with weight, and energy, and what have you, I think temperance as consumptive self-control is a good scope for me too. I tend to overeat, like last night after the gym, I ate about twice as much leftover chili as needed because I had not eaten since early that morning. I spent the night feeling bloated and loagie.

I tend, also, to over-indulge in whisky, especially if I end the work day with a drink. I lunch around 11 most days and get home around 6 after the gym. Drinking on an exercised body and empty stomach murders my resolve and I can too easily convince myself to have another. And maybe another. And that’s where things tend to go really off the rails.

So. Minding that, the next week my goals will be simple:

  1. no alcohol on an empty stomach
  2. and no more than one, measured drink (4oz wine or 1oz whisky or 3oz port)
  3. stop eating before feeling full

Wrestling with Franklin

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