Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Benjamin Franklin was a Vegetarian


Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech
-Silence Dogood (Benjamin Franklin July 1722)

I am to the point in Walter Isaacson’s biography on Benjamin Franklin where Franklin is my age (42) and retiring from the printing business that he grew into a media empire. He hasn’t yet accomplished his defining legacies like discovering electricity or signing the Declaration of Independence. But there is a lot we can learn from the young Franklin. The child who remained curious until he died at age 84. Baby boomers facing retirement or anyone at a career crossroads should take note. He never stopped reinventing himself. Retirement just meant that he didn't have to work for money anymore, now he could work on things that interested him.

Kudos to Walter Issacson for his well-researched story telling. I think I have a mind crush on the author, who has a resume worthy of his own autobiography. Before he wrote the biography for Franklin, Einstein, Kissinger and Jobs, Isaacson was chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time Magazine.

But I digress, Benjamin Franklin probably invented the mind crush too. Spoiler alert: There is so much more to Issacson's book, but so far here are my top ten things you probably never knew about the young, muscled colonial heart breaker..
  1.  Benjamin Franklin was a feminist. At the age of 16, Franklin started to anonymously submit articles to his brother's newspaper under the pen name Silence Dogood. Silence was supposed to be a dowdy widow. The 14 articles supposedly written by a middle aged woman made a popular and convincing argument why women should be treated equally. The newspaper, by the way, was the first to lay the groundwork for freedom of the press in the colonies.
  2.  He was truly a freeman. The name Franklin literally meant free man in England when men were named after their profession or trade. The Franklin family instilled the value of freedom in Benjamin. Even after he became wealthy, he remained a champion for the middle class. Striving to ensure all people were treated as free and equal.
  3. He was also a runaway slave. Although the family believed in freedom, the practice of the day was to enter into apprenticeships that were similar to indentured servitude. Franklin was physically beaten and berated by his older brother while working in his printing press. When he ran away at age 17 to Philadelphia, there was a genuine fear that he could face legal problems for not honoring the binding contract with his brother,
  4. He was a kite surfer. As a young boy, Franklin loved swimming. Not only did he invent wooden paddles for his hands and feet so he could swim faster, he frequently tied himself to a kite so the kite would pull him through Boston Harbor.
  5. He was the original hippie. Franklin loved the ladies and practiced free love from an early age. He proposed to a girl than left her in the lurch  as he went to sew his wild oats in London. Around that time he fathered an illegitimate son. He later took custody of the son and married the girl. 
  6. He invented the pros and cons list. Franklin may be the first person documented to come up with this method for weighing choices. He is at least the most famous. He was practical even in his decision to get married. He was quoted as saying "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half closed after marriage." Isaacson describes Franklin's wife Deborah as a plain jane. Franklin apparently thought  frugality, industrious and hard working outweighed romance or good looks. Maybe another pro to his wife was her ability to keep her eyes half shut to his many daliances. On the subject of pros and cons. Franklin also wrote a scandalous essay on the pros to bedding older women. Some of his pros included: You can't see their wrinkles in the dark. There faces may be aged, but their bodies are still firm. They are so grateful!
  7. He was a vegetarian. As a teenager, Franklin read about the moral reasons and health benefits of being a vegetarian and tried it. His big motivator was saving money on food so he could spend more money on books. He only later reasoned it was okay to eat meat when he saw fisherman cleaning fish that had smaller fish in their bellies. He figured if fish can eat other fish, than I can eat you.
  8. He discovered the key to heaven. Franklin's father, Josiah Franklin, had a favorite quote with his children. Proverbs 22:29 Seest thou a man diligent in his calling he shall stand before kings. Franklin later would say while he believed in the value of diligence, he thought the quote referred to standing before God someday, not literally standing before kings. Franklin the statesman would go on to stand before five kings and sat down to dinner with the king of Denmark. 
  9. He was meant to be his family's tithe to the church. Because he was born the 10th son to his father, his father designated him as the family's gift to the church. The plan was for Benjamin to go into the ministry. But it became clear from an early age that he was too curious and questioning to serve the church.
  10. His life was shaped by a politician's empty promise. The governor of Pennsylvania befriended the aspiring writer at the age of 18 and promised to set him up with his own printing business. The poor Franklin travelled to London to buy equipment for his new business with nothing but the empty promise in his pocket.  When he eventually worked his way back to America, he had learned the difference between dreamers and doers. Franklin penned one of his first of many resolutions  lists. Be frugal until your debts are paid. Be truthful, sincere and don't give false expectations. Don't be distracted be get rich quick schemes.Be industrious and patient. Don't speak poorly of others.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed that one!! I like your writing style. I love the expression "mind crush". I hope I see you this coming Wednesday to learn what prompted you to order the Shaklee products! My best! Rebecca

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