Simplicity – A Friend

“Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and the ugly in us,

but our emptiness.

The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there.”

(Eric Hoffer (1902-1983), U.S. philosopher. The Passionate State of Mind, aphorism 217 (1955).)


Eric Hoffer - Prince of the Balm of Simplicity

Eric Hoffer mysteriously lost his sight at the age of seven.  That was the year his mother died.

The next important event?  It returned.  In his mid teens, for no apparent reason, his vision simply returned.  Frightened that it may leave again, Hoffer was determined to read everything he could.

Eight years of blindness would affect any soul.  The risk would be developing an attitude of deprivation.  Eric Hoffer’s soul took the high road and sought richness in the midst of some of the most dire of human conditions.

When I first discovered Mr. Hoffer in the 1970s, I was awed by his courage and ability to speak his mind from such an ordinary position in life.  I wondered how he had become known.  How did he manage to have people listen to him?

He understood the importance of work and the healthy effect it has on self esteem.  At one stage, he decided to try sales. He sold oranges for one very successful day.  After seeing how easily people would buy from him, how malleable the populous, he quit.  Oranges may be good for people, but he could not bear witness to the ease with which people succumbed to a sales pitch.

Was the word “enabler” in vogue in those days?  If it wasn’t, Eric Hoffer was not going to put it there.

Domiciled on skid row in California and before becoming a longshoreman, he would ride the trains across the United States.  He read his way through to an education that took precedence over adventure.  He held library cards from locations all across the country.  The return date on the books and the expiry dates on his cards helped determine his itinerary.

Medal of Freedom - presented to Eric Hoffer in 1983

As he borrowed books and inhaled their essence, he made an interesting discovery.  He learned more from thin books.  He discovered that what needed to be said was said better in fewer words.  He suggested in an interview that the authors of thick books were not only trying to convince the reader, they were also having to convince themselves.

Of the ten books written by Mr. Hoffer, the largest contains 140 pages.

In that same discussion years ago, the interviewer listed more than one U.S. President who sought the company of Eric Hoffer for his refreshingly uncluttered views of life.

Metal of Freedom:  “An especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Thank you for your contribution to clarity, Mr. Hoffer.  If I even write one good sentence that contributes to our planet, I will dedicate it to you.

75 thoughts on “Simplicity – A Friend

  1. Amy,
    Thanks Much for mentioning this special person Eric Hoffer, being old enough and living in the bay area, I remember him being talked about in the local papers. You really highlighted facts that made him so special and rules we all can learn from.
    Thanks again for a little zen serving.

    • Hi John, You are very welcome. And thank you for the fabulous cards that Della left for me to enjoy. I love the mouse doing chin-ups! I may have to share that with my readers. The reason I love it, John, is that it shows your welcome and authentic tenderness towards life.

      (For readers…watch for this piece of art. I have a strong feeling there will be a post where John’s art will be the perfect accompaniment.)

  2. Hi Amy .. that’s an amazing story .. where the mind does realise what is going on – but doesn’t despair, just retains and garners more knowledge as it knows how … then the mind is at one with the world, so when sight returns the mind doesn’t ‘suffer’ .. it adjusts because it is ready. Perhaps this is how my mother is coping .. her mind is there, as is her sight, but her body no .. interesting thoughts .. thanks Hilary

    • What interesting concepts, Hilary. Our physicality is so much more than we know – proven as we research onward! I suspect there are solutions ‘whose’ simplicity would stun us.

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    • Charles, many, many thanks. As one little friend would say, “You give me goosebums.” 😳 However, “it” has yet to burst forth. The possibility keeps me intrigued because it will be a partnership.

  4. Wow. I’m going to google and then I’m going to research.
    So far–it’s all good! 🙂

    <– still wading through the movie!

    If nothing else, I know about persevering, eh? 😉

  5. I’m smiling. 🙂 Is it just me.? I find a little humor in the fact that you followed the previous in depth, lengthy movie with a post about Eric Hoffer and simplicity. Ha! I must go over to Nancy’s site as I probably will learn many new words. I am more like Hemingway, a few words can be used to say what you need.

    • Leslie, all who make it through all those presentations for the simple, but profound message that it contains deserve to know that I am still a devotee of simplicity. However, that may be my laziness. Usually someone had to plough through great complexities to arrive at simplicity.

  6. I have never read such deep quotes for a long time and Hoffer’s philosophy reminds me of the great Greek pioneers. Very wise choice again teacher May. You made us discover a gem.

  7. What a wonderful post. This is the best part of blogging, and the part that some miss. Following comments on blogs back to their source, and discovering the wonderful thoughts and ideas of others. I have not heard of Mr. Hoffer before, but you presented him with such passion and wit, that that is my next discovery.

    “He learned more from thin books. He discovered that what needed to be said was said better in fewer words. ”

    This rang so true, it still resonates within me. Thank you!

  8. WOW… It seems like all the comments I have been leaving around the blogsphere for some time now start with “wow”, but regardless of how it sounds at the moment I have to say WOW… I never heard of the man, and I will now make a note to look him up next time I visit that special place… the book store. Thank you so much for sharing this Amy, I would have never met Mr. Eric Hoffer.

    No wonder the book “The Stranger” is such a thin book, yet it carries one awesome story.

    • The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg (12 pages) or Albert Camus (123 pages)? BTW – if I remember correctly, you have a bit of Cuban heritage. If so, lucky you. When I visited Cuba recently, I was awed by the beauty – inside and out – of the people.

      • I just don’t have Cuban heritage, I was born and lived there for 13 years! Yes. I am Cuban completely, and forever and ever I will always feel I have left half of my heart in Cuba. But, we should leave this for a conversation with a bottle of wine… haha.

        Albert Camus, wonderful book, incredible writer. I can’t believe I did not find him sooner! I loved the book, and will always remember the story with a certain melancholy.

        • 100%? – Eso es fabuloso! (Looks like I picked a good translator – fabuloso. It sounds better in Spanish!) I am going to find The Stranger and read it. Thanks for the intro.

          Also, Jadeeyes, I can believe you would feel that way. The life style, the love, the food, the music, the beaches…my God! One day, I trust it will be easier to live there again. In fact, I trust that soon it will be easier to live anywhere our fabulous planet.

      • One day, but sadly that day won’t be for me. My life is here now, I mean in the States.
        My writing is questionable yet, I have many things to learn as English is not my first language, like my dad says, I can come up with an intricate plot but at this moment in my life I am incapable of delivering it. However, I can translate pretty well, that I can! 😀

        Find the book, you will like it. You seem to be a good reader. I learned recently (with that book in fact) that not everyone can read everything. A co-worker read it and didn’t think much of it… I respect everybody has different taste, but when a writer is awarded the Nobel Prize, and you are a bookworm, then you must read that book! That is my personal belief.

    • Thanks, Edward for your visit and your comment. I just glanced over your post about your mom and the one about the Ayn Rand quote. There’s a lot to comprehend and will need to visit you again.

  9. Bravo. This is a very fine post, Amy. The starting quote is wonderful.

    New Yorkers loved him and then of course here in CA he was talked and written about. Haven’t heard anyone mention him in ears.

    I always loved his, “We run fastest and furthest when we run from ourselves.”

    I wonder what he would think of how rather exhibitionist our cultures have become.

    Blog on … Always so wonderful here. Very at home.

    • Jamie, I looked for a quote that may give a partial insight to his response. Since he died in1983, I’m wondering if he was amongst those tendencies much in his older age. I can linger in his quotes for days.

  10. I love his observation about short books. My experience reading nonfiction suggests it’s a valid one. (I still love to get lost in a great story. There’s some nonfiction that fills the bill, too.) One of my friends seems incapable of short email or blog post, and they’re seldom content-rich enough to warrant the length. I try to learn from that.

    BTW, I’m with bronxboy55. You’ve already produced plenty of sentences worthy of dedication to Mr. Hoffer.

  11. I had never heard of this remarkable man before reading your post and he sounds like somebody I really need to read more about! The few things you mentioned about him have me hooked! I also love the first quote. Wow – what an incredible person.

    Thanks for sharing! xx

  12. I just read your post a little late – well, actually not that late – only the pace of blog-post-time can make you (me) feel it is late when in fact it’s just a few days ago. I wonder what Hoffer would have made of that.
    I don’t think I knew of Eric Hoffer before reading this, and I’m glad to have discovered him. I wonder, what made you write of him now?
    I like his uncluttered views of life and his approach to expressing himself through ‘a few sentences’. And the quotaitons you start with are so powerful.
    However, I’m not sure everything can be said in just a few sentences and I think of some great epic novels, such as War and Peace or Gone with the Wind, whose ambience, impact and meaning is partly the effect of length.

    • The essence of being succinct is directed more towards material that teaches, explains, make a point. Fiction is about telling stories, though my teachers taught me to keep the writing uncluttered, without superfluous words or phrases, and to do it creatively. That’s why poets amaze me. They can get to the nub as though words are gold bricks.

  13. I hadn’t heard of Mr. Hoffer. Thank you for bringing him to my attention.

    I was once told that in writing, if there is a passage you particularly like, strike it out. It’s rubbish. It almost always is, too.

    • Wow, Natalie, that’s a tall order, isn’t it? You are correct, however…these little dalliances often do little for the piece! I’ve told myself to note them elsewhere – they may be handy at another time. Seldom do it…

  14. Thank you, Amy for leaving a breadcrumb on Pat Cegan’s “Rainforest News” post – so I could follow it and discover your site. This is an awesome post and I appreciate discovering the quiet soul of Eric Hoffer! Thank you for sharing!

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  16. And like a shooting star, you fire through our holiday, reminding us what we once knew, then forgot when we gobbled up the Oxford English Dictionary, and spit it out to impress others. Simple, true thoughts are our moments of ephiphany. Thanks…you’ve made me rethink my editing.

    • Just visited your site, Cat. Hope my comment arrived…it didn’t look like it was receiving company today. 😀 Thank you so much for coming here. Seems we cat people find each other eventually!

    • You know, Tammy, this humble man is a reminder how we can live on without ever planning it. It’s a reminder to chose our words wisely. I would love to have heard his response if he had been told people would still be writing about him 30 years after his death.

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