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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Claire Wolfe

So very NOT a guru
(and other thoughts on a rainy day)

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Your comments on my “How did Grandma do it?” canning post the other day reminded me of yet another thing I like about this blog.

Not just the always-interesting and helpful comments (though that, too). But that it’s okay not to know something. Um … lots of somethings, actually.

I can be what I am — an ordinary person with all manner of gaps in my knowledge. I’m relieved to be able to get out here and be non-special in front of everybody. And by what I don’t know, I get to help bring out what you do. And there it is for anybody who needs it.


When I was young, I looked for leaders and gurus. But it didn’t take long for my skeptical, stubborn side to see right through them.

When I first became semi-hemi-demi-quasi-pseudo famous back in the 90s, I got a whole lot of “Oh, Claire, lead us to freedom!” stuff. Creeped the heck out of me. Which is one reason I kept trying to disappear from view in those years.

Not that I’m opposed to leadership or guruhood. I’m just opposed to followerhood. Oh sure, there are times when it’s dandy to “follow” someone who knows more than we do on a subject; wouldn’t most of us happily “follow” Jackie Clay’s homesteading advice? But those times are limited — and even when someone has expertise that we don’t, we still owe it to ourselves to inspect the bejabbers out of that expertise and determine for ourselves how expert it really is.

Too many “experts” remind me of Mark Twain editing an agricultural journal. And most leaders and gurus know less and do more harm.


I used to date a guru-type. It was a very short relationship, because like so many of that ilk, he would fly into a rage if anybody differed with him. When one day he declared that he felt like hitting me because I wouldn’t use some word (I don’t even remember which) in the particular fashion he thought it should be used (so I could use that word to change the world’s thinking, dontcha know), it was good-bye.

He always denied being a guru, though his little band of followers saw him as such. And in his denials he gave me one of the couple of good things to come out of the relationship. When somebody would call him a guru, he’d grin and say, “No. Spell ‘guru’ out loud and you’ll know better.” “Spell …? Okay … Gee You Are You.”

Okay, it’s corny. But it works. There are no experts in how we should live our lives — except ourselves.


I feel sorry for leaders and gurus, even as I mistrust them. What a burden to have to be wise and right all the time! Ugh.

How ridiculous to pretend you’re right and wise all the time when nobody can possibly be.

It’s much nicer to be able just to be ordinarily stupid or ignorant at times — even in front of other people.


I have a friend who’s as sweet and good-hearted as they come, but tends to be gullible. Many times she’s told me some “truth” — that is, something she heard on TV or in church — that was demonstrably, gobsmackingly false.

The other day she and I were at Costco. We wheeled our carts our separate ways, but both of us passed the same charming pitchman in the deli department. Wearing a Santa hat and giving out free samples, he was hawking, “Special Christmas hummus! Hummus for the holidays!”

It was just the exact same hummus you could buy any day of the week. The guy was just having fun.

When my friend and I met back up to check out, she happily pulled a carton of the stuff out of her basket and said, “Look, I got this special Christmas hummus!”

“That’s good stuff,” I said. “But that bit about it being Christmas hummus is just a line of BS.”

She didn’t miss a beat. “Well, it’s a different taste for the holidays, anyhow.”

It was the exact same stuff she’s bought there before. But some joking pitchman calling it “holiday hummus” made her think it tasted different.

Costco should have charged double for that batch.


Okay, enough rambling. On yesterday’s topic, AG sends this priceless photo:

And from the comment section, naturegirl found this smart (and actually BoR) respecting response to the sports commentators who suddenly became “experts” on guns after Jovan Belcher went on his rampage.

(BTW … Jovan Belcher? Seriously? I never heard of him ’til this weekend. But what kind of parents would name their kid after a cologne? Especially if their surname was already stinky?)


And here’s a diver and a dog and an orca.

I was thinking that might be a case of a mama orca protecting its baby. But D, who sent the link, points out that the diver in the black suit and the swimming black dog both resemble nice, tasty seals …

16 Responses to “So very NOT a guru
(and other thoughts on a rainy day)”

  1. just waiting Says:

    C’s 88 year old mom told her Obama won the election because he sent packages of cash money to poor people to vote for him. Millions of packages of money. Obama had a list, millions of people, he sent the envelopes himself. Of all the gov lists I’m on, I’m dissappointed to not be on that one**. She knows its true, she can’t be dissuaded, she heard it on Fox.
    My mom believes that under Obamacare, she’ll have to turn herself in at a govt termination center if she needs a new pacemaker or turns 85, whichever comes first. She knows its true, she can’t be dissuaded, she heard it on Fox.

    I can’t help but think people (fellow Commentariat excluded, of course) are followers by nature. People want to be accepted by their chosen society, and acceptance comes much easier if you spout the same lines and follow the same gibberishe as your neighbors. Contrary thoughts rock the boat. Its much easier and more accepted to follow than to think for oneself.

    The earliest histories of humankind are about wars. Soldiers following orders into battle, to kill or die without knowing a reason, just because their leaders told them to. The leaders have always been able to find soldiers to fight their fights. Being a soldier has been a respectable occupation, but a soldier is the ultimate follower.

    Today, we have leaders of a different kind, celebrities. I’m amazed at the amount of conversation centered around “the game” or “the show”. I don’t watch either, so I have little to contribute. But I listen, stunned, as people replay every detail of some absolutely meaningless event like its news that an asteroid is hurtling towards earth. Its freakin tv entertainment, it means nothing. I’m more amazed at the billions of dollars spent every year by sports enthusiasts on jerseys and other memorabilia. Taking a family of 4 to a pro game in the NY market will set you back well over $500, 700 if you get hot dogs and a beer. Thats a new generator, or 4 months of electric, diesel fuel for 3 months, 2 months worth of eating. $75 for a shirt? Heck, I can go on a 2 week vacation for $75.

    But the followers keep coming, one generation raising the next to follow the same teams, the same shows. Sad state we’ve fallen to, where more people follow sports and celbrities than follow real current events.

    ** (BTW Claire, thanks for taking my listing international with the Snitch book. Saw the comment how they love if down under ;).

  2. Kent McManigal Says:

    …that it’s okay not to know something. Um … lots of somethings, actually.

    That is one thing I love about the internet. I hate wanting to know something and not being able to find out the answer. back in the day “BI” (“before internet”), that meant looking through lots of books sometimes. There were even things it took me years to find the answer to. Now, as long as I can figure out how to phrase the question, I can find multiple answers in seconds, that can then be cross checked, double-checked, or otherwise confirmed. I love that.

  3. naturegirl Says:

    Getting older in the “Internet Generation” is a lot of extra work….makes one realize how much they really don’t know and makes extra work in figuring out all the falsehoods in the world, too…..My parents and grandparents were quite happy in their “assumed wisdom” of what they knew, lol; without an online search to completely toss it out and replace it with more/real facts…..There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t learn something new once I get online, which is why I’m so fascinated with it, hehe…..

    It’s also becoming a world of “gurus” because of it, so many people online as “experts” lately….it’s almost hard to avoid em, not to mention getting inferiority complexes trying to read up about something from all the different sources…’s hard not to catch “follower virus” sometimes……but the sheer availability of learning is almost addicting LOL….

    I’m okay with not knowing a bunch of things, because there’s only so many hours in a day and living and learning the hard way has it’s own special blessings (as long as it doesn’t hurt)…..

  4. Pat Says:

    Hmmm…thinking for oneself, or not. Those who think for themselves will sort through it all to find the correct answer (or as near to correct as possible – see Reason’s article: ); those who don’t think for themselves will believe the first answer they find that makes them feel good.

    The fun of the internet is like using a thesaurus – one word, subject, article, bit of info can lead to another and, while seemingly wasting time, you invariably end up learning something new. E.g. I learned a lot about chia seeds ( ) today while looking up natural ways to bind gluten-free flours without using guar gum or xanthan gum.

    The problem with a few gurus I’ve known is their “specialty” seems to wander into every field… sort of like Bloomberg who thinks he’s an expert on all subjects.

  5. Matt, another Says:

    I can’t be a guru or expert etc, I don’t have any you tube videos, self promoting blogs, or expensive letters after my name. I’m okay with that though. I am barely qualified at being my self.

  6. Eric Oppen Says:

    Watching that video, I can’t be the only one who was mentally humming the Jaws theme.

  7. Jim B. Says:

    It took me a while to get out of the Guru mindset, I admit. I find it helps to view them as very specific “experts”, specialists as you will. The problem with specialists, I found, is they tend to be very narrow-focused, due to specializing in their fields, and thus arrogant and narrow-minded as well. They also tend to think their expertise in their field makes them intelligent enough to solve problems in a lot of other “fields”. I admit to feeling a guilty pleasure whenever I see one of these “experts” screw up when they venture into areas they had no business butting in.

    On anther topic, it may interest you to know that we had knife control before we had gun control. True, in Tennessee they actually passed a law making it a felony to use a Bowie knife to kill a man, even in self defense. Not any other knife, specifically a Bowie knife, especially due to its effectiveness.

  8. Perkidan Says:

    To paraphrase Michael Valentine Smith (Stranger in a Strange Land), “Faith is a dirty word.”

  9. Bear Says:

    Matt, another Says: (December 4th, 2012): “I can’t be a guru or expert etc, I don’t have any you tube videos…”

    Ah, YouTube experts. Like these guys:
    (Those interested in the wikigun project should definitely watch that one. I h/a/t/e/ /t/o/ /s/a/y/ /I/ /t/o/l/d/ /y/o/u/ /s/o/… Nah. I toldja so. [grin] )

    But I do have a YouTube video, so I must be an expert. At something. Maybe even a New Age guru:

  10. Bear Says:

    Dang it. Too many URLs in my first post. “Moderation” indeed. Fooey.

  11. gregabob Says:

    I’ve heard this definition of ‘expert’: Someone who knows more and more about less and less. I was surprised to find otherwise intelligent people assume because a certain ‘expert’ was good in his field that it automatically translated into superior knowledge in other unrelated fields. Maybe that’s how ‘experts’ with good PR become ‘gurus’…..dazzle ’em with prowess in one sphere and BS ’em in another. Soon followers are parsing every spoken word……

  12. Woody Says:

    Bear taunted: ” I h/a/t/e/ /t/o/ /s/a/y/ /I/ /t/o/l/d/ /y/o/u/ /s/o/… Nah. I toldja so. [grin] )”

    I doubt that this was the first time in history that an early prototype failed during testing and it certainly won’t be the last. Testing outlandish ideas is how we learn to do amazing things. I believe Thomas Edison had something to say about failed experiments.

  13. Todd Says:

    Claire, one the main reasons I follow you is that you are a guru at not being a guru :)

  14. Bear Says:

    Woody, as someone who enjoys trying stuff just to see if it will work, I understand the pitfalls of testing and prototypes. These guys though, are more like a guy declaring he has developed the unbreakable rock and saying, “Watch as I prove it by pounding this piece of limestone with a hammer! Note that my amazingly durable material res… Um. Why’d that happen?” As Ian at Forgotten Weapons ( pointed out in an email, they seem to suffer from a remarkably lack of knowledge of firearms. Or materials.

    Or, if you prefer, they’re like Da Vinci and his 15/16th century “helicopter”: Interesting concept, but utterly unworkable with the materials and power sources* available 600 years ago.

    Or maybe the post-WW2 cargo culters building “airplanes” and “airfields”. Both indulged in a lot of wishful thinking.

    I have a great deal of confidence in 3D printing. The _future_ of 3D printing. But there’s only so far you can push sintered, thermosetting ABS plastic. Especially if you fail to account for the differences in structural strength between it and milled aluminum.

    (* Da Vinci’s copter might have flown with the right engine. With a big enough power plant, you can make a _brick_ fly. Just look at the F-4 Phantom.)

  15. kycolonel Says:

    For the first three decades, of my life, I read everything I could get my hands on and watched videos trying to figure out what this whole existence thing was about. One day, I suddenly realized that nobody knows what the h*** is going on. That was very liberating
    Two very wise men, in my life, often told me that I shouldn’t believe a word they say and to do my homework in order to find my own truth.

  16. Richard Says:

    @kycolonel – so funny about the guys telling you not to believe them. I have the an unfortunate nickname given by colleagues of Richipedia. I constantly tell them not to trust anything I say because I don’t even trust my own memories or facts. Hell half the time I’m not even sure I exist or that my perceptions are real. Of course it doesn’t help that I’m right 98% of the time. But some think I’m always right because of simple odds. Like the old confidence scam. Tell half a group of 24 persons a stock will go up in price and the other down in price. To 12 that your prediction came true break in half again and do the same. By your third split if the group you’ll have 3 people willing to turn over their life savings to your investing genius.

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