Wednesday, March 16, 2016

'Benjamin Franklin: An American Life' (2003): Take I

Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003). Most if not all people reading these words will have heard at least something about Benjamin Franklin. What Isaacson provides is a coherent overview of Franklin's entire life. 

Ben (1705/1706-1790) was quite a character. Mix a little of Thomas Edison with Voltaire, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Angela Davis, Donald Trump, Gore Vidal and Neil deGrasse Tyson and presto -- one might catch a glimpse of the nine lives of Ben Franklin. Seriously, he was that multifaceted, quite capable of thriving in the year 2016.

Of Franklin, Isaacson notes: "there was joy in his antic 
curiosity. . ." He was not "motivated merely by his quest for the practical . . . In general, he would begin a scientific inquiry driven by pure intellectual curiosity and then seek a practical application for it" (pages 129-130). 

Of Franklin's many social connections: "Franklin only occasionally forged intimate bonds with his male friends, who tended to be either intellectual companions or jovial club colleagues. But he relished being with women, and he formed deep and lasting friendships with many. For him, such relationships were not a sport or trifling amusement, despite how they might appear, but a pleasure to be savored and respected" (page 165). 

Politically, Ben Franklin was most often a pragmatist and a centrist: "Though a populist in many ways, he was wary of the rabble. His outlook, as usual, was from the perspective of a new middle class: distrustful of [both] the unwashed mob and the entrenched elites" (page 212).

Franklin provides an endless font of stories and ideas, many of them very relevant to the 21st century. 

To be continued.

Today's Rune: Partnership. 


t said...


Charles Gramlich said...

I read some stuff about Franklin when I was young and developed an admiration for him but I bet there are a lot better sources out there these days. This might be a place to start.

jodi said...

Erik-Cool info. I love a man that can be friends with women as well!