Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,

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Eric Hoffer's "The Passionate State of Mind"

How had I never heard of this guy?? (As you can see there, both the DailyO & Freedom's Nest beat me to him!)

A friend recommended the book last summer so intriguingly that I kept a note for months to get it, and I finally did. Tonight I began reading the collection of aphorisms -- and didn't stop until I reached the end. I left marks with my pen on just about every page.

On the strength of this one slim volume, "The Passionate State of Mind," I'm calling him the Nietzsche of the 1950's. He's an H.L. Mencken addressing deeper psychological questions! Wow.

280 epigrams spanning 151 pages...


Much that is achieved by faith can also be achieved by the utmost frivolity. If faith rejects the present, frivolity makes light of it and disregards it. Both the devout and the utterly frivolous are capable of self-sacrifice. Both generate a fortitude which sustains one in difficulties; both are capable of extremes.

The passionate state of mind is often indicative of a lack of skill, talent or power. Moreover, passionate intensity can serve as a substitute for the confidence born of proficiency and possession of power. A workman sure of his skill goes leisurely about his job, and accomplishes much though he works as if at play.

There is radicalism in all getting, and conservatism in all keeping. Lovemaking is radical, while marriage is conservative. So, too, get-rich-quick capitalism is radical, while a capitalism intent solely on keeping what it already has is conservative.

It is startling that what we call extreme self-seeking is actually self-renunciation. The miser, health addict, glory chaser and their like are not far behind the selfless in the exercise of self-sacrifice. Every extreme attitude is a flight from the self.

A social order is stable only so long as it can give scope to talent and youth.

Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance and suspicion are the fruits of weakness.

Great evils befall the world when the powerful begin to copy the weak. The desperate devices which enable the weak to survive are unequaled instruments of oppression and extermination in the hands of the strong.

To act or think extremely one needs a sense of the dramatic. Excesses are essentially gestures.

They are dangerous times when words are everything.

The war on the present is usually a war on facts. Facts are counterrevolutionary.

We associate brittleness and vulnerability with those we love, while we endow those we hate with strength and indestructibility.

Action can give us the feeling of being useful, but only words can give us a sense of weight and purpose.

We are prone to sacrifice others when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves.

The readiness to praise others indicates a desire for excellence and perhaps an ability to realize it.

The people we meet are the playwrights and stage managers of our lives: they cast us in a role, and we play it whether we will or not. It is not so much the example of others we imitate as the reflection of ourselves in their eyes and the echo of ourselves in their words.

It is compassion rather than the principle of justice which can guard us against being unjust to our fellow men.

Good judgment in our dealings with others consists not in seeing through deceptions and evil intentions but in being able to waken the decency dormant in every person.

We feel free when we escape -- even if it is but from the frying pan into the fire.
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