Two weeks ago, I was early to bed. Last week, I was early to rise. It follows that by now, if you believe old Ben Franklin’s adage, I should be healthy, wealthy, and wise. But hold on; wait a sec: maybe we ought to consider an alternative ending, the one penned by an equally sagacious American—James Thurber. He had a different take on the daily rhythms of our lives: “Early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead.” Hmmm; now there’s some food for thought worth digesting.
I’m a devoted Franklinite. In large part thanks to my nutritionist daughter-in-law, I’m reasonably healthy; I must admit I’m a bit less wealthy than the Monopoly man, old Uncle Pennybags; and as for wise, that’s certainly open to debate. But I am undoubtedly alive. That said, Mr. Thurber makes a good point, perhaps the same one made by British economist John Maynard Keynes when he commented “in the long run, we’re all dead.” Perhaps not quite as coyly poetic as Mr. Thurber, but awfully hard to refute.
Keynes developed his complicated theories to explain major economic phenomena—the Great Depression and World War II, for example. He realized that even after a great storm, the ocean will eventually be flat again. While that may be a comforting thought for those who can afford a yacht in which to ride out the storm, it doesn’t do much for the rest of us kayakers who are caught up in some tempestuous short-run situations from time to time. I bet all those destitute folk out in the Oklahoma dust bowl would have surely appreciated a flat ocean sooner rather than “in the long run.”
Anyway, Ben Franklin’s more optimistic analysis of my nocturnal and diurnal habits is much more comforting: maybe, if I can continue to adhere to my daily routines, I’ll eventually hit the trifecta of health, wealth, and wisdom. To be honest, I’d take any two of the three. Were you to ask my wife, however, I’m pretty sure she would tell you that at this point in the game, wisdom is pretty much out of reach so I should be just wise enough to aim at the health and wealth targets of Poor Richard’s little ditty. At least with those two beans in hand, we wouldn’t have to keep putting off that trip to Italy we’ve been talking about for the past three years.
She’s probably right. If I were just healthy and wealthy, I could afford to be a little foolish. I’d eat the most expensive salads on the menus of all the finest restaurants in town. I’d buy Eggman all the organic tofu he could eat. My wife and I would finally get to take that trip to Italy, even fly first-class. We’d rent a villa in Tuscany or stay at the Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice or charter a yacht to cruise the Amalfi coast. We’d buy each other designer clothes and gifts for all our friends back home at every elegant store along the Via Veneto. We’d…
Wait. What? How much? Really??
Hmmm… never mind. Guess I’ll settle for wise after all.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com