Who is Eric Hoffer
Eric Hoffer was an American social writer and philosopher. He produced ten books and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983 by President of the United States Ronald Reagan. His first book, The True Believer, published in 1951, was widely recognized as a classic, receiving critical acclaim from both scholars and laymen, although Hoffer believed that his book The Ordeal of Change was his finest work. In 2001, the Eric Hoffer Award was established in his honor with permission granted by the Eric Hoffer Estate in 2005.
Hoffer was born in the Bronx, New York City in 1902 (or possibly 1898), the son of Knut and Elsa Hoffer, immigrants from Alsace. By the age of five, he could read in both German and English. When he was age five, his mother fell down a flight of stairs with Eric in her arms. Hoffer went blind for unknown medical reasons two years later, but later in life he said he thought it might have been due to trauma. (“I lost my sight at the age of seven. Two years before, my mother and I fell down a flight of stairs. She did not recover and died in that second year after the fall.I lost my sight and for a time my memory”). After his mother’s death he was raised by a live-in relative or servant, a German woman named Martha. His eyesight inexplicably returned when he was 15. Fearing he would again go blind, he seized upon the opportunity to read as much as he could for as long as he could. His eyesight remained, and Hoffer never abandoned his habit of voracious reading.
Eric Hoffer Quotes
1. Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy – the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.
2. Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.
3. We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves.
4. In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
5. People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.
6. Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.
7. The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.
8. When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.
9. When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored.
10. We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. But it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities but its own talents.
11. Our frustration is greater when we have much and want more than when we have nothing and want some. We are less dissatisfied when we lack many things than when we seem to lack but one thing.
12. Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.
13. Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.
14. You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.
15. A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.
16. It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into opportunities.
17. Far more crucial than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know.
18. The greatest weariness comes from work not done.
19. It is the individual only who is timeless. Societies, cultures, and civilizations — past and present — are often incomprehensible to outsiders, but the individual’s hungers, anxieties, dreams, and preoccupations have remained unchanged through the millenia.
20. Nonconformists travel as a rule in bunches. You rarely find a nonconformist who goes it alone. And woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity.
21. In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.
22. The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.
23. You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy.
24. The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbor as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. We are prone to sacrifice others when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves.
25. 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.
26. To a man utterly without a sense of belonging, mere life is all that matters. It is the only reality in an eternity of nothingness, and he clings to it with shameless despair.
27. It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from their sense of inadequacy and impotence. We cannot win the weak by sharing our wealth with them. They feel our generosity as oppression.
28. An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.
29. To be fully alive is to feel that everything is possible.
30. The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.
31. Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life.
32. It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible.
33. people with a sense of fulfillment think it is a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change.
34. We feel free when we escape, even if it be from the frying pan into the fire.
35. Man staggers through life yapped at by his reason, pulled and shoved by his appetites, whispered to by fears, beckoned by hopes. Small wonder that what he craves most is self-forgetting.
36. The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else–we are the busiest people in the world.
37. What monstrosities would walk the streets were some people’s faces as unfinished as their minds.
38. Many of the insights of the saint stem from his experience as a sinner.
39. You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.
40. A movement is pioneered by men of words, materialized by fanatics and consolidated by men of action.
41. The individual’s most vital need is to prove his worth, and this usually means an insatiable hunger for action. For it is only the few who can acquire a sense of worth by developing and employing their capacities and talents. The majority prove their worth by keeping busy.
42. There would be no society if living together depended upon understanding each other.
43. The beginning of thought is in disagreement – not only with others but also with ourselves.
44. There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day; we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.
45. The permanent misfits can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement.
46. Propaganda … serves more to justify ourselves than to convince others; and the more reason we have to feel guilty, the more fervent our propaganda.
47. There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless.
48. In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.
49. The enemy—the indispensible devil of every mass movement—is omnipresent. He plots both outside and inside the ranks of the faithful. It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter, and the deviationists are his stooges. If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing. It is the sacred duty of the true believer to be suspicious. He must be constantly on the lookout for saboteurs, spies and traitors.
50. We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.
51. The weakness of a soul is proportionate to the number of truths that must be kept from it.
52. Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: where there is compassion even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless.
53. It is thus with most of us; we are what other people say we are. We know ourselves chiefly by hearsay.
54. Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.
55. Things which are not” are indeed mightier than “things that are”. In all ages men have fought most desperately for beautiful cities yet to be built and gardens yet to be planted.
56. Scratch an intellectual, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the sound and the smell of common folk.
57. The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a God or not. The atheist is a religious person. He believes in atheism as though it were a new religion.
58. There is perhaps no surer way of infecting ourselves with virulent hatred toward a person than by doing him a grave injustice.
59. There is apparently some connection between dissatisfaction with oneself and a proneness to credulity. The urge to escape our real self is also an urge to escape the rational and the obvious. The refusal to see ourselves as we are develops a distaste for facts and cold logic. There is no hope for the frustrated in the actual and the possible. Salvation can come to them only from the miraculous, which seeps through a crack in the iron wall of inexorable reality. They ask to be deceived. What Stresemann said of the Germans is true of the frustrated in general: “They pray not only for their daily bread, but also for their daily illusion.” The rule seems to be that those who find no difficulty deceiving themselves are easily deceived by others. They are easily persuaded and led.
60. If the Communists win Europe and a large part of the world, it will not be because they know how to stir up discontent or how to infect people with hatred, but because they know how to preach hope.