Franklin’s Cockpit: Our perceptions and reality

Today I was once again reminded of how our perception affects our reality, and urge you in the weeks ahead to be mindful of the same.

I am reading Walter Isaacson’s book Benjamin Franklin, and came upon the account of Franklin’s being called before His Majesty’s Privvy Council to answer for colonial petitions asking for the w/drawal of Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver as the appointed governor and lt. governor of Massachusetts.  The meeting was held in a room called “The Cockpit”, as cockfighting had gone on there during the reign of Henry VIII…you know, sort of like Whoppi Goldberg says goes on all the time in Puerto Rico today.


Franklin was roundly and unfairly abused (he was the agent for Pennsylvania, and had no involvement in the Massachusetts petition), but took the calumny heaped upon in stoic fashion.  Years later, when attending the treaty ceremony where Great Britain granted independence to America, Franklin took some measure of revenge by wearing the same jacket to that ceremony as he had worn during the Cockpit ordeal.

Here’s the thing…I read of this even many years ago, but without this picture (the same as in Isaccson’s book).  I always pictured Franklin’s Cockpit as smaller, darker, looking more like a tavern.

Why had I such a mistaken image of this place, thinking it small and dark when it is apparently grand and bright?

I realized it is because many years ago when I tried unsuccessfully to get a law degree at Washington and Lee University there was a student dining establishment called “The Cockpit”, a name later changed to “General Headquarters”.  It was a student dining area open for lunch, with dark wood, no windows, very dark.  It occured to me that in reading the story without illustrations I took my experience and used that to form my perception of reality…and had me thinking that Franklin’s cockpit looked alot like my Cockpit!

Why is this ruminating and cogitating on my part of any value to you?  Because in the upcoming beautiful autumnal days and nights we will be making small decisions based on our perceptions, decisions like “no need for a jacket, it can’t be that cold”, “it’s not that cold out “, or, if we are walking to something like the Burke Fair, “oh, it’s not that far to walk”.  More often than not, we will discover it can be that warm, it is that cold out, and even if it is not too far to walk it is danged site further than we thought!

As we spend more time out and about this fall, don’t be fooled by such thoughts.  Don’t let your perceptions impede your ability to analyze and react to the situation you really face.  Dress appropriate to the weather, don’t over estimate your physical capabilities, and stay out of harms way…or at least minor illness’s way.


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