Friday, January 25, 2008

"A Man in a Passion rides a mad Horse"

Today I spent an inordinate amount of time being pissed off at other people. I went up to school to do some work, and in the empty, cavernous reading room two horrible girls chose the seats directly across from me in order to pretend to study, talk -- not whisper -- on their phones and to each other, unpack and chow down on a grossly broad variety of snacks, and (best of all) chew with their mouths open like cows wearing trendy black leggings and Ugg boots. Then on the subway and on the walk home I kept encountering the kinds of people who lumber along the sidewalk yet drift horizontally the entire time, or the people who cross the street and reach your sidewalk in order to cut you off at precisely the worst possible moment. I admit that I am a pretty impatient and obnoxious person in some ways, especially as a pedestrian, but at least I walk I in a straight line with a constant speed. Who are these people, waddling along at weird angles and then darting up ahead? Why can't they get out of my way?

These were the charitable thoughts I was mulling over when I went to Chipotle and pulled out the New Yorker to read about Ben Franklin. In his various writings he compiled a lot of sayings, and made up a bunch himself, and I was surprised at how sharp they were. They were like little arrows of truth piercing my bad mood: their simplicity, humor, veracity and comical 18th-century punctuation and spelling really got to me. It feels good to live in the same moral universe as Ben Franklin, that these ideas still resonate and carry some truth through a few hundred years.

No Gains, without Pains.

He is a Governor that governs his Passions, and he a Servant that serves them.

If you wou'd not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.

A Man in a Passion rides a mad Horse.

Strange! That a Man who has wit enough to write a Satyr; should have folly enough to publish it.

Talking against Religion is unchaining a Tyger.

Force shites upon Reason's back.

And finally:

The Master-piece of Man is to live to the purpose.

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