Friday, May 09, 2008

Ben and Me

Today the judge asked me locate an obscure and rather abstract idea that he had read in "an essay or book" by Benjamin Franklin. In the process, I discovered that Benjamin Franklin wrote far too much. But I also learned a very interesting and little-known fact: Benjamin Franklin invented a time travel machine and traveled to the present day.

After else, how else could he so clearly describe many commenters on online message boards and blogs?

Rules for Making Oneself a Disagreeable Companion

RULES, by the Observation of which, a Man of Wit and Learning may nevertheless make himself a disagreeable Companion.

Your Business is to shine; therefore you must by all means prevent the shining of others, for their Brightness may make yours the less distinguish'd. To this End,

1. If possible engross the whole Discourse; and when other Matter fails, talk much of your-self, your Education, your Knowledge, your Circumstances, your Successes in Business, your Victories in Disputes, your own wise Sayings and Observations on particular Occasions, &c. &c. &c.;

2. If when you are out of Breath, one of the Company should seize the Opportunity of saying something; watch his Words, and, if possible, find somewhat either in his Sentiment or Expression, immediately to contradict and raise a Dispute upon. Rather than fail, criticise even his Grammar.

. . . .

4. When modest Men have been thus treated by you a few times, they will chuse ever after to be silent in your Company; then you may shine on without Fear of a Rival; rallying them at the same time for their Dullness, which will be to you a new Fund of Wit.

Thus you will be sure to please yourself. The polite Man aims at pleasing others, but you shall go beyond him even in that. A Man can be present only in one Company, but may at the same time be absent in twenty. He can please only where he is, you where-ever you are not.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, November 15, 1750


rosie said...

I hadn't thought of that: I make more people happy if I'm annoying than if I'm nice! The only thing is, I think the pleasure people take from my absence isn't as long-lasting as the pleasure of good company is. Also, most of the people who don't have to deal with my company don't appreciate it, and the people who do have to deal with me don't realize when I restrain myself from being irritating. So I don't know if it's really worth it.

david.hilton.p said...

Rosie, I'm not sure you should question the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, of all people.

Generations have respectfully gazed on (or through?) his reflections, and I only think it fitting that we do the same.

rosie said...

Well, maybe I'm wrong. Still, if the test of validity is how long the idea has been held valid, few ideas would ever be validated, no?