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Edward Phillips

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How to Stumble Without Stooping
By Edward Phillips
Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rated "G" by the Author.

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My dad died in 1957. When I arrived at his rooming house to see what was there, the room was empty. But I still have a lot of memories. This is one vandals could not take.

I'll Have a Heaping Helping of "Sawdust Pudding" and Cold Water, Please...
 
A couple of days ago I sent out a message that contained the line "A rich man is not one who has the most, but one who needs the least."  I liked the simplicity of that message.  It had the "ring of truth." As a wannabe writer, I also liked the way it did not resort to adjectives and adverbs to create the illusion of substance where none existed.  It reminded me of an expression my dad used to make some 60 years ago.  At the time I thought he used it as an excuse for the fact that he owned little more than the clothes he wore.  When the subject of money or wealth came up, he often quoted Ben Franklin's words:  "The man who can live on sawdust pudding and cold water doesn't need much help from others." With those words I immediately knew there would be nothing coming from ol' dad on that day.
 
Franklin was a writer who called himself a printer. That title substitution is itself an act of notable modesty.  One is no better, no worse, than the other, but they do invoke different skill sets.  Franklin apparently preferred to present himself to others as just someone who uses his hands to print stuff rather than someone who uses his brain to think, to reason, and to persuade before disseminating his carefully crafted prose.
 
Thanks to the Internet, I quickly found the context of the words in that quote. As a young publisher it seems Franklin's advertisers were not happy that his opinions did not reflect their narrow points of view.  And they were threatening to withdraw their ads from his paper, hence his income stream.  One day he invited several of them to dinner in order to have a meeting of minds.  He served only a corn meal mush that resembled saw dust, and a pitcher of water. It was well-known in that day as a poor man's dinner.  According to my source, "Franklin gave everybody a heaping plateful, and then, filling his own, he made a hearty supper of it. The others tried to eat, but could not. After Franklin had finished his supper, he looked up, and said quietly, 'My friends, any one who can live on 'sawdust pudding' and cold water, as I can, does not need much help from others.' After that, no one went to the young printer with complaints about his paper. Franklin, as we have seen, had learned to stoop; but he certainly did not mean to go stooping through life." (illustration and quote from web-books.com)
 
And so, thanks to the wisdom of Ben Franklin, to my own father, and to the anonymous writer in my opening line, the burden of my own poverty has been lifted a little today.  I just hope I can continue to stumble with it rather than stoop because of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Edward Phillips



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