Tranquility Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 11, Q2

Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

*this may be also viewed as “Acceptance”

Personal notes:

  • Ignore the trifles. Better yet, laugh at them.
  • Focus on life’s big positives.
  • Realize our time is transitory.

My wife worked at a cancer hospital. Passing through the pediatric ward, she would text, “We are ok.” After all, how could we not be? Life’s noisy trifles were muted, their trivial nature revealed at the sight of a 2 year old fighting for her life. The shocking clarity of the moment rebalanced reality. But as always, time went on, the hours and days slipped by, gray overcame clarity, and trifles regained their strength.

Why? Why do we permit trifles such strength? True tragedies – death, injury, sickness – stir in us something more; our intrinsic human response is the opposite of trifles. Trifles provoke rage, anger, and agitation; tragedies evoke sadness, reflection and compassion. Rather than stiffen, tragedies soften. When my daughter spilled her milk, I fumed a visceral heat. When I learned my uncle died, I sought family.

Last week I talked about my landlord. His Sunday night email temporarily trumped all life’s meaningful positives – a fact that is so preposterous I’m ashamed the sentence is true – but it is true. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t shake the trifle. I repeated the grand notes and I said to myself, “We are a happy, healthy family in a loving, secure environment,” big picture stuff, but it was useless. All I heard was the broken cord amongst the symphony.

Three steps helped overcome the obstacle. First, I talked with close friends. Without emotional connection to the issue, they cut through the noise (thank you). Second, the surest way to regain control was to end the matter quickly; cut out the cancer. Finally, I changed my perception of the matter; the trifle became funny.

Why do life’s paper cuts carry such sting? I don’t have an answer – I wish I did. All I know is we practice, we avoid, we improve, but inevitably, we stumble; we are human. The trifle surprises us and we become trapped. Don’t let the common accidents or meaningless trifles win. We are better than that. The trifle’s weight is an illusion; let it float away in the breeze.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 12, Q2

Chastity: “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring. Never to dullness, weakness or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

Personal notes:

  • This week is a decade too late;
  • It’s the most difficult week to write about publicly;
  • Focus on “health” and/or “offspring,” depending on what the boss says.

I’ll be honest, this week’s virtue is about 10 years too late. If you’re out there having a lot of fun, respect. This week is for you. But if you’re living a quieter lifestyle like me, focus on improving your “health” this week.