My #7 celebrity crush is Ben Franklin. I say it all the time; people think I’m trying (and succeeding) at being cute, but I’m here to tell you, I am serious as hell about my BF. In real life, I tend to be attracted to outliers, or as a really perceptive and tactful friend put it recently, “obvious failures.” But in the world of my imagination, I am attracted to men who create convention instead of going against it (on purpose or by hilarious accident). There are no bad boys in Crush World, simply the silver-haired, good-spirited wordsmiths who created new standards with wit, insight, and in Benjamin’s case, syphilis.
On the eve of America’s anniversary, here you will find the 4 tenets of my philosophy of life brought to you by my future Hell Husband (no way either of us is ending up in heaven, let’s just be honest about that) and founding father, Benjamin Franklin.
1. Make your family.
BF: “A Brother may not be a Friend, but a Friend will always be a Brother.”
I learned early on that family is not a thing handed down to you from on high. Family are the people who help you grow; who forgive you and teach you to forgive yourself; who recognize you when you forget what you look like. For me, this is an amalgamation of people who are blood related to me (my therapist says, “What would your brother say to you about this?” me: “He would say I don’t need to be an idiot about it.” Therapist: “Listen to him.”); people who I practically Vulcan mind-melded with as a pack of high school nerds in a Chicago suburb; my intellectual and philosophical brethren, from school; my mentors and heroes at work and in life; and my cat. Benjamin rightly proposed that brotherhood is the highest form of human interaction, and it’s something that can be given to you and by you through a number of surprising and unconventional relationships, if you learn not to limit yourself to the bonds of biological family and to open your mind to strange love.
2. The greatest sin is to waste a day.
BF: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of.”
My blog makethreesixtyfive was founded on this principle. As both an industrious person who loves being lazy and a sometimes depressed person who wants to kill and eat the industrious person inside of me, it was an essential incentive to leave my mark on every day. Not doing is the only thing I can regret, really. Ben also was notorious for his highly scheduled day:
Whatever small thing gives you a sense of pride and satisfaction in your day, just do it. Once a day. Don’t waste the most precious fabric of life.
3. Failure is just funny looking success.
BF: “I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.”
When I was in elementary school, I qualified for a geography bee. I was extremely shy but also loved to over-achieve, so I wanted to barf from joy and fear when this happened. I answered “Buddha-ism” to one of the questions, and was mortified (I still get flashbacks to this moment). I was 8. My father, constant keeper of my strange academic neuroses, said, “I’m sure somewhere or at some time, it was pronounced that way.” Of course, this is probably not true, but it helped me realize the value of a wrong answer. It’s not “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”, it’s “you remember 100% of the shots you almost made (and they teach you something).”
4. The darkest times are fertile opportunity for personal growth and exhibition of power.
Benjamin has a lot of thoughts on this one.
BF: “Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.”
“While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside us.”
“Those things that hurt, instruct.”
These are the things that make me think, really, that Benjamin and I will make beautiful music together when we meet in the fiery afterlife. If I didn’t believe in the power of dark times to bring you to the light, I would be living in my parents’ basement right now eating straight peanut butter and watching reruns of the OC (which means I would have given up). I tend to hurl myself into the pain, the fear, the risks that feel especially risky to me as an introverted, super-cautious middle child. Benjamin, an extroverted polymath, would be right there with me, flying a kite in a thunderstorm, carrying a turkey home from the market for a stranger, and generally finding beauty in the strange and “bad” things that come from being a human.
One last aphorism that is especially important to me, and is a tribute to the power of motion, activity, and change to make a difference, even if it’s just coming from little old you.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Long live the revolutionary spirit of America. Have fun out there tomorrow.