The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1793)

franklinI’m feeling a bit sad because I’d nearly finished writing about this book, and somehow the file’s been lost. My computer dies very easily and frequently, and the result is that I’ve learned to make the mistake of not saving files more often because I enjoy suffering.

Right. Ben Franklin’s Autobiography is, potentially, my favorite book ever by default. I’ve read it more times than I’ve read any other book. You might compare this to how the film I’ve seen more than any other is The Jacksons: An American Dream, the made-for-TV movie from 1992 that always seemed to be on television when I was younger, away from which I could never tear myself (phew—the awkwardness of ending sentences properly. But, when one only knows a single rule of grammar, one must apply it mercilessly). The fact of the matter is that it’s the first book in the first volume of the Harvard Classics, which all of a million times I’ve tried reading from start to finish, and never succeeded. But I always begin at the beginning, and, fortunately, I always receive a new bit of wisdom applicable to my life at the moment.

I’m struggling to remember the point of the last essay, which was ultimately based on a conversation Cindy and I had some weeks ago. Forgiveness. That was part of it. Let’s see how far I can get in retracing thoughts. But I don’t see how they apply.

I’ve been keeping my car’s radio on scanning the stations lately, and during the day there’s mostly Christian preaching, and I skip over it. But I heard the words “ten boom” as a station zipped past. I just had to get that on the table before I forgot. Oh, wait…the forgiveness, etc. essay I lost was about Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. Apparently I never wrote anything on Franklin.

Anyway, I always pick up little things to apply to my life. When I read this in 2004, as I remember where I was sitting, hiding in a corner of the dry cleaner’s trying to avoid customers since I was supposed to be working,

  1.      Fundraising: I recall Franklin’s advice to someone who’s asking him to help with fundraising: make a list of everyone. Then, ask the people whom you know will give you money. Then, show the list of people who’ve given you money to the people who might give you money. And after that, go to the people who won’t give you money and show them the larger list.
  2.      Learning Languages: Don’t bother learning Latin first. Learn Spanish, Italian, and French, and then you’ll have an easier time with Latin, and if you never get to it, at least you have some living languages under your belt.
  3.      Strong drink makes strong men—is a false argument for drinking beer for breakfast. Franklin suggests that they should eat the quantity of grain used to make the beer, I guess in the form of oatmeal with some pepper ground on it, and some water, and they’ll end up with more energy.

This time, I came across passages on business:

  1.      If you’re working with someone else, no matter whom, draw up an agreement stating what each party expects of the other.
  2.      Deal honestly with everyone in business, and things should turn out okay.
  3.      Negotiate by finding ways for everyone to win. He wanted to eat vegetarian when he was working for his brother, and his brother didn’t want to have to pay for separate meals for him when nobody else was vegetarian. So he asked his brother to give him, I think, less than the amount of his meal cost, so his brother saved the money, and half of that money he used to buy his ingredients and cook for himself, and then he also got to spend his eating time reading rather than hanging out with the other workers. So everyone won.
  4.      It’s proper to work your fucking ass off. And you need to convince your loved ones of this.

Around the time I was reading this, these two passages stirred something inside me of what was occurring in my life at the present. The fourth is most difficult for me. Although it ought to be simple, I think I have very little to give right now.

Well, what? All I got out of the book was practical advice.

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