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 ~

I have had limited exposure to Eric Hoffer’s work, but lately I’ve repeatedly encountered references to it. The quote above resonates with me; it acknowledges something I’ve always known but could not quite articulate. I want to read some of his work, including the book, True Believers: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. Another Hoffer quote that is especially thought-provoking to me is this one: “A mass movement attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.” People join cults, for example, because they feel worthless; they claim to seek radical social change, but in fact their real target is self-replacement. Perhaps Hoffer’s philosophical explorations might reveal what those same people do if they choose not to join cults; if, instead, they reject such identity-erasing attachments. Perhaps they withdraw into themselves.  I’ve read several short extracts of Hoffer’s philosophical writing. They appeal to me in part because I agree with them. That’s not the way to learn—one learns by exploring ideas outside his own beliefs—but there’s some comfort to be gained from affirmation that one’s perspectives are shared by someone as widely regarded and respected as Hoffer.

I might challenge Hoffer’s statement about self-renunciation. Rather than a passion for self-renunciation, perhaps it’s a matter of seeking renewal or replacement or exchange: I want to be someone else…someone who might support some sort of radical social change…so I will support this movement that promises the opportunity to exchange the person I am today for the person I might become tomorrow.


I was in bed for seven hours last night. I suppose I slept most of that time, but it was a very restless sleep, interrupted several times because I felt either cold or hot or because I was sleeping the “wrong way” on my shoulder. Or because I had to get up to pee. Each time, I had a bit of a tough time getting back to sleep. But eventually I did. I had to force myself to stay in bed when I woke at 4. I went back to sleep and finally got up at 5. Sometimes, I wish I could either sleep all the time or not at all. “All the time” is growing increasingly attractive. Sleep tends to allow a person to leave those nagging aspects of real life wallowing in the gutter.


I cooked a rib-eye roast last night, a very expensive gift to ourselves, thanks to a visit to Costco back in December. Paired with a fiery horseradish sauce, some wedges of tomatoes, steamed zucchini topped with Greek dressing, and San Francisco sourdough bread (and a little wine), it was a very nice meal. But far too rich to eat frequently. Though I could probably figure out a way to tolerate it.

We would have made a GreenChef meal, but the free package for three meals we should have received Thursday came on Friday. Everything looked fine, except for the proteins: warm chicken, warm salmon, and warm shrimp. We opted to ask for a re-do. We’ll get another try in mid-March. The first GreenChef meal we had, courtesy of a friend (who also gave us a coupon good for three free meals), was outstanding. Quick and easy and healthy. That’s the habit I/we need to get into.


Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.

~ Marcus Tullius Cicero ~

I am having an incredibly hard time reconciling my deep gratitude for my life as it is with my desire to change it in fundamental ways. It’s as if I were one person being torn into two distinct and quite different pieces. This conflict requires much, much more thought. It is in such circumstances that introspection is the most valuable and potentially the most dangerous.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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