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Free Capitalist

Hello !

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I'd like to introduce myself in an official way. Some of you have already seen me post elsewhere, and although you might have found out some things about me from the content of my posts, I have not previously written about myself, for a variety of reasons. Having become a moderator on this forum earlier today, I think now's a good time to remedy my lack of proper introduction - so that those who have never seen me before can know who I am, and what I'm all about, and those who already have seen me before can get more of a complete picture. :angry:

Currently, I am a graduate student in Computer Science; although my family lives in New York City, I spend most of the year living 4 hours north from it, attending Binghamton University. I am 23, and have been studying Objectivism for five years. Upon entering college as a wittle freshman, I was dearly searching for scholarships to fund my education, and came upon the Atlas Shrugged contest in one of the scholarship books. Back in those days the AS contest deadline was in January, so when I got the book at the end of November, I was kind of rushing through it. Needless to say I didn't "get" it too much, but it left a footprint in my mind for next year. Next year I decided to start the 'research' earlier, and was able to actually devote time to reading and absorbing the ideas.

The beginning of the book was interesting and inspiring, but still within the realm of the ordinary works of literature. The pivotal moment came soon thereafter, and I remember it very clearly: Francisco was crashing the party with his Money Speech, which I couldn't help but read in a single metaphorical breath. The sense of release kept mounting as he continued, and eventually became unbearable - I just laughed out loud, right in the middle of the speech. I knew nothing would be the same after that, and to this day, of all Ayn Rand characters that I've read, Francisco remains my most enduring hero, and the one I try most to model myself after. Since then I've found more heroes, from other sources, to admire and take for role models, but Francisco has endured, matching the best of them.

I'm sure you'll all appreciate the fact that, unlike the beginning of this post, the rest of the story can be counted by years, not seconds. When I found Atlas Shrugged at 19, I was almost too late, with my childhood optimism nearly succumbing to the cynicism of the world. And so, despite having learned about the way out of the labyrinth, my eyes were still not very used to the function of perception, and therefore bumps into walls inevitably followed, on my way out. Some not so painful, some very much so. The years kept marching on, with all the regular mistakes made by beginners - taking the books too literally and attempting to mimic the minutae of AR's characters; reading the non-fiction books and believing myself to be a master of that section of her philosophy; after having finished AR's major works, sighing that I had just exhausted all the good books that the world had to offer to me and being concerned with having to settle for mediocre books and art for the rest of my life; being depressed for many months after reading the "biographies"; trying to understand and choose in the conflict between TOC/ARI; being dogmatic and not integrated in my ways of thinking, etc. But it wasn't all hard struggle - the books continually served as inspiration and motivation. When I was down, there was always a reliable method for me to recapture solace for my mind - I would sneak away into the university library, find a forgotten book section, settle deep into a comfy armchair, and read AR's journals for hours on end. That particular book was such a soothing tonic for me, that I often didn't hesitate to cut class. The choice was: attendance in class, or serenity and protection against the heavy and unwelcome thoughts and feelings; they were disturbing the precious serenity of the mind that I had once almost lost forever, and was now desperately struggling to recapture and hold on to. A mere academic class couldn't stand between me and this! I'm sure the professors would not officially approve the way in which I chose to recapture it, but would still secretly appreciate the intention and the (large) investment of time and effort I put into it.

Thus, after four years of struggle and intense thinking and choosing and analyzing and introspecting, I've finally entered upon a stable plateau - i.e. becoming a person who has dealt with all of the major cognitive and moral issues from their past life, and acquiring the stability and serenity of the mind required for a happy and successful living.

Then, I had a new epiphany.

It started with me taking two classes during the Spring of my senior year as an undergraduate: the history of Ancient Rome, and a graduate course focused on close reading of Aristotle's Ethics and Politics. My professor for the Rome class was a great scholar, but also not any less cynical than others. His one great redeeming quality was that he had us read the original books of literature written by Greeks and Romans over two thousand years ago.

It would be as impossible for me to sufficiently describe the effect these books have had on me, as it would be for any of you to explain the effect of Ayn Rand to someone who's never read her. The primary quality that so blew me away about them was a tremendous sense of the heroic, which pervaded every ancient text I've read that semester, being present strongest of all in the works of the great Greek historian Polybius (who, I should note, will be discussed by John Lewis in the upcoming OCON this summer). These texts had: at once a childlike innocence of those who look for truth and virtue in the world, and at the same time a very august self-confidence of men who commanded tremendous knowledge and wisdom about the nature of things and men; a deeply profound search for moral excellence and heroic men to admire, and at the same time such an inspiringly healthy and inductive approach to ideas, the likes of which I would be hard-pressed to find at any point in the two thousand years since then.

So that was the class on Rome. And Aristotle... oh, don't get me started on Aristotle. If you find someone who can help you get through the clunky English translations of his ethics, and understand the deep intricacies between the lines, you will discover a treasure trove in many ways quite unlike Ayn Rand's. I was lucky enough that my University had one such person to help me with the understanding, a professor who was an Aristotle scholar in his own right, quietly existing amidst post-modernists of the worst kind. I emailed Alan Gotthelf, the Objectivist scholar on Aristotle, and he knew my professor by name, and confirmed the man was the 'safe', and at the same time a genuine Aristotle scholar; thus, it is primarily through the help of Dr. Gotthelf's help that I attended the class, and primarily through the professor's help that I discovered Aristotle all for myself. :o

So I took these two classes last Spring, despite the fact that they were way out of my major and would not add an iota to my academic career. I've always been interested in trying out new things, and I'm glad that I am this way, because these two classes have blown me away, quite similarly to the way Ayn Rand has blown me away five years before. The Ayn Rand revolution was more fundamental in some ways, but in terms of impact on my optimism and benevolence and pursuit of healthy and successful life, the Classical revolution was just as dramatic, just as powerful, and just as important. You can gauge a little bit of the impact by the fact that, this Fall, as soon as I entered school as a graduate Computer Science student, I immediately decided to enroll in the class on the Ancient Greek language, despite the fact that it too has absolutely nothing to add to my academic career. Next Fall I'm taking Latin. B)

So that's a little bit of what I have to say about myself. Please don't hesitate to ask me any questions. I hope I have explained why, on the one hand, my username is Free Capitalist, and at the same time why my avatar is a picture of an ancient Republican Roman soldier. When I will reconcile Objectivism and Classicism, and make a detailed study and scholarship of the latter a commonplace phenomenon amongst Objectivist intellectuals, I will consider that to be the crowning achievement of the first half of my life. :)

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I'd like to introduce myself in an official way.

It's nice to be officially introduced :angry:

(I need a handshaking smiley) Pleased to meet you :o

I was moved by your description of your first experiences. As you know I'm brand new to all this and I can't wait until I've got a firmer grasp and integration of the concepts. It can be very frustrating.

I thought it was funny you said at 19 it was almost too late for you. You can imagine how I feel at 24. Regardless, it's better late than never, and I'll put my time in as patiently as possible.

Thanks for your story B)

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Dominique, I did not mean at all to imply that reading AR at the age of 19 is almost too late for everyone; I'm was only referring solely to the context of my own life. Everyone's different. For example, I know a woman who's discovered Objectivism in her 40s, and she's doing great.

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