June 3, 2011


Half way through my reading of Eric Hoffer’s True Believer, I was stunned to come upon the following:

          “The most incurably frustrated – and therefore, the most vehement – among the permanent misfits are those with an unfulfilled craving for creative work… they are likely to become the most violent extremists in the service of their holy cause.”

Immediately, I thought of Plato’s “Republic where the artist is banished because he is a seeker of new ideas rather than immutable perfection. But that’s not Hoffer’s complaint. He fears the frustrated artist will develop a frustrated mind. I have no idea how he comes to his conclusion and in his defense, he makes no pretense of offering any authority. He affirms his work “does not shy away from half-truths so long as they seem to hint at a new approach and help to formulate new questions.” 

(courtesy: fromoldbooks.org)

Certainly, I can see the half truth in his speculation. Stage mothers, thwarted in their ambitions, are notorious for foisting their dreams upon their children. “The Black Swan” is a novel that portrays one such mother, though she is not literature’s first. “Gypsy memorializes another. Nonetheless, if I were to build a Republic from scratch, I’d ignore the warnings of Plato and Hoffer. I’d fill my utopia with artists, either good or bad, for I see no crime in the search for truth and beauty. An ugly poem is preferable to a war.