“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).)
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.
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.