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To All the Special Interests I’ve “Loved” Before: Part II – A Letter to Benjamin Franklin

by on August 21, 2020

21 August 2020

My Dearest Benjamin Franklin,

Thank you for your presence in my life.  You are a beloved special interest, a delightful human being, and one of the most interesting people I can think about and discuss with others.  Doing so over the years has increased my self-esteem, because when I have a new special interest I unwittingly dedicate myself to becoming an expert.  It isn’t really anything I set out to do; it simply happens.  And my recall for details about special interests is unsurpassed even by my own standards for recalling information.  The more captivating the special interest, the more easily I remember everything about them.  You captivate me!

Until recently I was sometimes accused of being obsessed with you and with some of my other interests.  Even I sometimes wondered what was going on in my mind, so I don’t fault those who were mistaken or annoyed with my repetitive discussions and behaviors.  My infatuations needn’t be concerning at all.  The thoughts are never intrusive or unwelcome; in fact, they bring about an overwhelming relief I need and actively seek.  Now that I’m finally beginning to understand myself, perhaps one day I can help others discover and reveal their own true identities.  My engrossing special interests are the primary reason I realized who I’ve actually been all along.  So thank you, and thank you again!  

Sometimes I thought of you as a great American hero although in reality you might not care to be labeled as such.  You have been called a citizen of the world and that title actually seems more befitting.  “Hero” is also a strong word – perhaps a title given to many but deserved by few.  As the compelling Five for Fighting song “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” states, “Even heroes have the right to bleed.”  Placing others on pedestals is probably an unrealistic activity.  No human being is perfect, and determining what “perfect” even means is impossible.  

Yet in my mind you are as close to perfection as I could imagine a human to be.  A large portion of this admiration has been your self-awareness and willingness to change existing ideas and opinions by educating yourself.  To do so publicly requires humility – a virtue you displayed throughout your 84 years.  Yet you also demonstrate what I view as an acceptable degree of arrogance, which I also find altogether alluring!

For nearly a decade I’ve turned to you for comfort, peace, joy, knowledge, laughter, inspiration.  Learning from and about you through your volumes of written works and letters has alleviated boredom and relieved anxiety.  Through many episodes of turmoil, trauma, and stress you’ve supported me whether you knew that or not.  You have no idea what you’ve done for my overall well-being, but I often wish you could know.  Today you feel something like a well-worn, comfortable pair of slippers or a favorite, cozy blanket.  That’s what a special interest can feel like, and sometimes I just need to wrap myself up in you!

It’s no easy task explaining what you mean to me since you’re a person I don’t actually see face-to-face.  Sometimes relationships are difficult and even impossible to explain to others – and even to ourselves.  So I’ve decided I should stop trying and simply enjoy what I have.  Since I’m autistic, you happen to hold a tremendously powerful place in my mind.  That isn’t anything I can help or prevent, but I view it as a gift for which I’m enormously grateful.  Autistic people require their special interests to help them survive and navigate the complex, sometimes confusing world around them.  Thus, I actually need you.

Should curious others who read this letter wonder why you mean so much to me, I’ll briefly share some of that even though it’s not necessarily why I’m writing this letter of gratitude.  You are inventive, innovative, brilliant, charming, witty, creative, clever, virtuous, talented, and benevolent.  You are a known genius, scientist, author, poet, feminist, Abolitionist, diplomat, environmentalist, activist, philanthropist, artist, polymath.  You are a true Bodhisattva. 

As for your numerous quotes, as I close I’ll share two treasured ones because they made such a lasting impression upon me:

“There was never a good war, or a bad peace.”

(https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/benjamin-franklin.html)

and

If you wou’d not be forgotten 

As soon as you are dead and rotten, 

Either write things worth reading, 

Or do things worth the writing. 

(Poor Richard, 1738) 

As this letter concludes, I would like to share a poem I wrote in your honor several years ago.  My autistic mind still wants to micromanage parts of the poem I find somewhat dissatisfying.  Perhaps sharing it publicly will prevent that.  A creative writing instructor and I once had a brief, albeit interesting disagreement regarding the idea of a male Muse.  She later seemed to agree they can exist.  You have certainly been my Muse, to the extent you have inspired both prose and poetry.  I wrote this poem when I was in college, and your uncle who also wrote an acrostic poem for you during your childhood inspired it. 

“A 21st Century Acrostic for Benjamin Franklin”

15 August 2012

Benevolent Founder,

Electrical Friend – your

Notable charm brings me

Joy without end. 

American Hero (with

Mischievous grin),

Inventor and Mason – so 

Noble within.  My

Favorite Victor of famed 

Revolution

Abolished the War with

No hidden pollution.  What

Knowledge!  What virtue! Your 

Lightning in Hand!

Immortal – I vow- this great 

Name it shall stand!

Gratefully and eternally yours,

Dana

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8 Comments
  1. Mike Stamm permalink

    Nice piece. One should remember that BF was a man who is remembered also for some serious flaws, but on balance this is fair enough.

    Like

    • Dana permalink

      Thanks Mike. Every human has flaws. Thankfully most of us don’t have ours displayed publicly as historical and famous figures. I’m curious to know the flaws to which you’re alluding.

      Some of his so-called “flaws” are historically inaccurate, such as being a philanderer. There is no evidence of that, yet he continues to be known as some philandering, doddering, eccentric old fool. He most certainly was not, and I will defend his character through the end of my life. He lived his entire life trying to improve the lives of others, including petitioning Congress to end slavery. He was ignored and dismissed, much like he still is today.

      There were around 20,000 people at his funeral and he had no known enemies. People all over the world deeply mourned his death.

      Like

  2. Dana, you are an absolutely impeccable writer. As I was reading this I felt regret that it could not have been delivered to him personally, or at least spoken as a eulogy at his funeral. We often joke about our internet writing going off into the ether. In this case I’m hoping there is truth in that.

    Like

    • Dana permalink

      Thank you, Marco. There were a number of serendipitous or coincidental experiences years ago which led me to think he might have been visiting me.

      But at the time I was also under so much stress and had no support system. I was thinking about him so often as a way to relieve stress. Perhaps the coincidences occurred because he was on my mind so much.

      Although thinking about him and simultaneously watching a nightlight go flying out of a very tight bathroom outlet was a really fun but bewildering experience. Maybe he played a little electrical joke on me. I never could get an explanation from any electrician I questioned afterward.

      Like

  3. P L WEDDING permalink

    DanaRenee, I loved this share. Inspired writing. Clearly your muse opens your heart.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

    • danarenee71 permalink

      Pam, thank you. Yes, my Muses have absolutely opened my heart. They inspire me to think, to create, to become more self-aware.

      Like

  4. danarenee71 permalink

    I see you like to write as well. Thank you, Saania.

    Like

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