Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a brilliant Renaissance man, would have turned 309 years old today, should he have lived so long. He was born in Boston on January 17, 1706. Who knew Capricorns could be so witty?
This tidbit from Wikipedia shows his thoughts on the possibility of preservation and resurrection after death: In 1773, when Franklin’s work had moved from printing to science and politics, he corresponded with a French scientist, Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg, on the subject of preserving the dead for later revival by more advanced scientific methods, writing:
I should prefer to an ordinary death, being immersed with a few friends in a cask of Madeira, until that time, then to be recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country! But in all probability, we live in a century too little advanced, and too near the infancy of science, to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection.
In celebration of his birthday, here are some of Franklin’s choice morsels of wisdom on life and death:
“I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.”
“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.”
“Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.”
“Life’s Tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”
“I guess I don’t so much mind being old, as I mind being fat and old.”
“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”
“I look upon death to be as necessary to our constitution as sleep. We shall rise refreshed in the morning.”
“He that raises a large family, does, indeed, while he lives to observe them, stand a broader mark for sorrow; but then he stands a broader mark for pleasure too.
“For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.”
Lastly, these moving words were spoken by Benjamin Franklin at the funeral of a friend:
“We are spirits. That bodies should be lent us, while they can afford us pleasure, assist us in acquiring knowledge, or in doing good to our fellow creatures, is a kind and benevolent act of God.
When they [our bodies] become unfit for these purposes and afford us pain instead of pleasure, instead of an aid become an encumbrance, and answer none of the intentions for which they were given, it is equally kind and benevolent, that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them. Death is that way.
Our friend and we were invited abroad on a party of pleasure, which is to last forever. His chair was ready first and he has gone before us. We could not all conveniently start together; and why should you and I be grieved at this, since we are soon to follow, and know where to find him.”
His many roles in life, besides being one of the U.S. Founding Fathers, an inventor and scientist, included newspaper editor, printer, and book publisher. In 1728, aged 22, Franklin wrote what he hoped would be his own epitaph:
The Body of B. Franklin Printer; Like the Cover of an old Book, Its Contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Gilding, Lies here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more, In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and Amended By the Author.
Franklin’s actual grave, however, as he specified in his final will, simply reads “Benjamin and Deborah Franklin.” The United States, and the world, is much improved from the contributions he made in his life.