The North Fulton Curmudgeon: Franklin’s wit, wisdom fresh today



A word of warning to those who look for those tame words usually found under the byline of that simpering editor.

For it is I, the North Fulton Curmudgeon, who has usurped his usual less than erudite space he allots for what passes as Opinion.

I have slept many months disregarding the lame musings of that jumped-up jackanapes, but he piqued my interest when he said he was going to write about a true American – that genius of letters, science, economy, politics and the man who actually made the postal service pay.

I speak of course of the sage of the Enlightenment, Benjamin Franklin. When most 18th century Europeans could not tell you where America was, they knew its most prominent citizen. He tamed lightning and gave us our first understanding of the nature of electricity. Indeed, he gave us the nomenclature we still use today.

It runs as a current, and by nature can be deemed positive or negative. He also gave us a better understanding of that other current that flows west to east from the Gulf of Mexico – the Gulfstream.

Franklin’s genius was of a practical kind. He thought fireplaces uneconomical and foresaw as his adopted city Philadelphia grew, so would the need to import cords of wood for the winter. So he designed a more efficient fireplace – later called the Franklin stove. He used convection to draw in the cool air and circulate it back into the room after it was warmed.

His learning – all self-taught – was such that he was celebrated by the greatest scientists and philosophers of the day and could discourse with them on such a range of topics that all were enchanted by his imagination.

And yet he understood the average man of his day and wrote mainly for them as a printer, author, journalist and pamphleteer.

His Poor Richard’s Almanack was celebrated for the wit he added along with the phases of the moon, planting season, calendar and such sundry information as those without cable TV found handy to have at hand.

What made yon genius Franklin so delightful was the pithiness of his proverbs that so cut to the heart of wisdom. Who can improve upon “Haste makes waste.” Or “Time is money.” As The Bard so aptly said, brevity is the soul of wit.

Franklin wrote: “When you are finished changing – you’re finished.”

“Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and after half shut.”

To that he added, “He who displays his wallet and his wife too often, is in danger of having them both borrowed.”

As the Curmudgeon, I have come by my wisdom honestly – that is I have made many mistakes. So allow me to improve a few adages:

Never a borrower or a lender be.

The Curmudgeon adds: But remember it is the lender who collects the fee.

Franklin says: A country man between two lawyers is unto a fish between two cats.

The Curmudgeon adds: But this warning, between two lawyers choose the one that’s fat.

Franklin says: Honesty is the best policy.

The Curmudgeon adds: So says every dishonest man – once he’s been caught in a lie.

There has not been the like of Franklin since to warm our minds with the truth so elegantly told. One wonders what we have made of the pristine country he left us.

And for our friends in Washington, The Curmudgeon adds just one of his own:

To pay our debts they make IOUs like cheese

And say this coming fiscal storm is only a breeze.

But to the people I say listen naught – or learn Chinese.

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