Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ayn Rand and Her Book

We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force. ~Ayn Rand

Now that I am finally caught up on the book reviews I had made commitments to do too long ago, I have the pleasure of sharing just a few of my thoughts on a book that some have claimed as one of the most influential books of all time, second to the Bible. I finished Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged a few weeks ago and, as I said in this previous post, Who is John Galt?, I found it quite disturbing, even though I found my myself enraptured by it at the same time.

Ayn Rand wrote about a world in the near future without many sci-fi props. It is one of the greatest love stories of all time: the love for an ideal man unknown, the love of one's life-work, the love of personal freedoms, and the love of a country as it should be. It is the destination of a transcontinental political collectivism railroaded into the minds of generations delivering what it should have never promised and could not sustain.

No one can really read this book and not feel the author's anguish. It was very personal.

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Rosenbaum in Russia in 1905. Although non-observant Jews, they were subject to strict anti-Semitic laws, but her pharmacist father was successful in owning his business. At twelve years old, that all changed as Rand witnessed Bolshevik soldiers march in and take her father’s business. Her father would never really work again. No doubt this birthed her ideas on “looting and mooching” from productive businessmen by use of government-supported force and policies. It is also quite pronounced in Rand's book that she valued reason as the highest of man's attributes for she was an atheist. Ayn Rand died in 1982.

A few days ago I watched a documentary called Ayn Rand & the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged and I found tears in my eyes. Those tears were not for how the critics of her day (and even yet today) slammed her ideas, but in how she took ten years to write this one book and yet so many of her readers, fans even, failed to understand the philosophy she so brilliantly portrayed in Atlas Shrugged. Even if you disagree with her objectivism philosophy completely, which has been criticized as rationalized self-interest, how can you not appreciate her valiant effort to make it clearly understood?

Are there flaws in her philosophy? No doubt, just as in any man-made idealism. There was a part that I felt should grate against my beliefs, but even then I could not escape the purity of her concept in the "virtue of selfishness" and the enslavement of guilt. I know, I know. She was an atheist and true atheism is the religion of guiltless selfishness. Still, her logic was amazing and even before I read this book I have wrestled with the ideologies of selfishness and selflessness.

Selfishness is supposed to be unchristian-like, therefore quite undesirable, although perhaps inescapable, but on the extreme opposite side complete selflessness makes it impossible to sustain one's own life. I addressed some of my conflicted thoughts on selfishness about three years ago in my post Selfishly His. Some believe to be truly selfless would be to give everything you have to everyone you can that does not have those things, but then two things would happen: you would eventually have nothing because there is always someone in greater need and eventually you would be in greater need, but then you cannot depend on others to have anything left to give you.

I do not know if selfishness is actually a virtue, but I am not fully convinced that it is all bad either. I have deeply contemplated whether God Himself is selfish in some manner and, if He is, would it not be virtuous? Does that thought disturb you? Does He seek to please us above His own purpose, above His own pleasure? I would not expect this of my Lord. He gives us what we ask when and how it pleases Him to do so. If one person prays for rain and a neighbor prays for a sunny day, would He be likely to please both? He is God and will do whatever He will do because He chooses to do it--who can find fault with that!

How can God enjoy us if He was not for selfishness? For that matter how can one enjoy anything in life without selfishness? When I take a bite of chocolate, how can I enjoy those moments of delicious chocolate melting in my mouth without selfishness knowing that thousands have never tasted chocolate and worse may not have had any food available to eat for the entire day? Just desiring the chocolate I should feel guilty, right? Do you think God feels guilty having a throne in heaven while people still suffer on earth?

Ayn Rand had some things to say against religion causing this guilt factor. She illustrated how people would be convinced by their guilt, if not their own needs, to want government to be the equalizer, penalizing those who prospered to provide for those in need. The more needy or dependent, the more guiltless and noble one's life would be, so the goal would be to own nothing and willingly be paid according to your need rather than the contributions you would make to serve society. This idealism also would not stop at international borders, so there would always be some place in the world with people in greater need...always. Ayn Rand believed in separation of economics and government because she saw that collectivism resulted in all people of wealth being the evil ones and all those in need could, should, and even would have the right to take from them by the way of government. When I hear President Obama speak, I hear this sentiment loud and clear.

To that end, Ayn Rand said it herself when interviewed about the prophecy made in Atlas Shrugged: "Only that I am sorry it is coming true so exactly." And that was 40 years ago!

I rarely look back on my life and wish it went differently, not that it was so good, but that knowing myself I would have made the same choices without the wisdom gained from results of those choices. However, I do wish I had read this book before I graduated high school as I know it would have profoundly altered my perspective and changed the course of my choices as a young adult. My only excuse is that I did not know of Atlas Shrugged then and that is why I am sharing information here on my blog this day, so that those of you who have not yet read it will consider adding it to your reading list soon.

~ My Lord, it is so difficult to watch the dying breaths of this nation. ~

1 comment:

  1. I had Atlas Shrugged on my shelves for 20 years & never read it before finally giving it away. I don't go much for these sort of books ~ hated Orwell for pretty much the same reasons ~ but philosophy strikes me as silly anyway. It just seems to be mind games for the sake of mind games & I just don't get the point ~ besides the world being quite depressing enough as it is.

    If I want to worry about the state the world's in & where it's headed I just have to look at what Christ is saying to me these days ~ & that is quite enough to do my head in. Seriously.

    I have been missing you but I know you are in the middle of your summer happy time. Hope it is being a good one. ♥

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