Friday, July 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Eric Hoffer

I was standing in the registration line in the beginning of my freshman year of college. Two lines over was a guy I knew slightly from my high school. He shouted over:

"Hey, you still into the Philosophy thing?"


"Man, there is this guy I just read you got to read! Guy's name is Eric Hoffer. The book's called The True Believer. And check this out -- he's a philosopher and a longshoreman!"

"Thanks. I'll check it out." And I did.

From The Writers' Almanac:

It's the birthday of writer and philosopher Eric Hoffer born in New York City (1902). His mother died when he was seven years old. Shortly afterwards, Eric Hoffer mysteriously went blind. He finally got his eyesight back eight years later, and he was eager to catch up on his education, so he read every book he could get his hands on.

He moved to California and worked as a dishwasher, a factory worker, a farm hand, and a longshoreman. His plan at each job was work long enough to save some money and then take the time to do nothing but read. He held library cards in six different towns in California, so he could always have access to books no matter where he was in the state. His favorite book was the Essays of Montaigne, and he carried it everywhere with him in a rucksack. The first book he submitted for publication was a handwritten manuscript, and it was published in 1951 as The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.

Eric Hoffer said, "When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other."

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