Oleksandr

Atlas Shrugged as a Spark

16 posts in this topic

The following is one of my blog posts. The original is here. I have recently read it over, and found that I like it enough to share elsewhere other than my blog. I feel it belongs to this forum. Judge this yourself.

Note: this post is actually an old one. It was written in Summer 2006. It was written when I discovered Ayn Rand. The following is the modified version. I had decided to rewrite a few parts for clarity.

Reading "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand has caused me to think. Think a lot, think a lot more about things I've stopped thinking about, or didn't think much, things I should be thinking, things I was wrongly positioned on.

In some ways, it's scary, in some ways, it's awesome. It's as if my current view lies somewhere in between, and my mind keeps jumping between two states unable to find a stable position, but I feel the distance between jumps narrowing down to some certain point. I don't feel it yet, but I know it will come, as I parse through the book.

Reading "Atlas Shrugged" isn't reading, but looking through numerous points of views, logical chains of thoughts, ideas, philosophies, description of problems and their solutions. I'm reading it very differently, as I've never read a book before. It's not the plot that I'm after - I don't care what and how the plot will turn out and I feel no need to jump back and forth through pages. What I'm trying to grasp are the thoughts and effort that took to realize the things and write down into the book. It's what's called between lines, but also something much deeper, it's not the lines, but maybe the entire page or a chapter that I look in-between.

What's really scary though is the change that it brings into my mind. And what makes it worse is the rate of that change compared to the usual flow. The change brought upon by the book is huge. It tears through many old and establish ideas, approaches, and my views on life.

But the change doesn't come from the book itself, or even the ideas discussed in the book. I bring the changes myself, by thinking about what I've read, what I think, how I thought or used to, and how it applies to something. So, in reality I am the one tearing down all that I hold wrong or inconsistent, or just plain bogus.

What it feels like is finding something that you've always had but never noticed, or ignored, or denied to have it. And now that it is found, it explodes without barriers. Not calmly and orderly, but explodes all around the mind, causing chains reactions in other thoughts, topics, views, assertions - anything and everything.

Some reviews have called the book dangerous, and it is. But not in the way they call it, but in a difference context: it is dangerous to those who wish for everyone to be a non-thinking robot. The book gives the mind a chance to re-discover itself. It feels as finding or creating another layer of your own mind that you weren't aware of before and to find spots that were never consciously used.

All that is a very Good thing.

P.S. Enormous thanks goes to Ayn Rand, who wrote the book and created philosophy of Objectivism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The following is one of my blog posts. The original is here. I have recently read it over, and found that I like it enough to share elsewhere other than my blog. I feel it belongs to this forum. Judge this yourself.

Hi Oleksandr, perhaps what you are trying to describe, is that you were trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together, and that while you were familiar with a lot of the pieces, it wasn't until Ayn Rand showed you the cover picture on the box, that you started to reorganize the pieces. It's how the pieces fit to give you the whole, that makes you feel life is less of a puzzle. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've mentioned this before, but I'll bring it up again in this context: When I first read AS, I kept having a response pattern in my mind that went like this: "Yes. Yes. Yes. No. Wait...yes."

Was there anything similar in your experience?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've mentioned this before, but I'll bring it up again in this context: When I first read AS, I kept having a response pattern in my mind that went like this: "Yes. Yes. Yes. No. Wait...yes."

Was there anything similar in your experience?

Yes, I did find her right on all her points. What made this more impressive are the choice of topics that she made. Those choices were of hard philosophical question that are usually evaded by "the common folk."

So, instead of "She's right here as well," it became "Holy, she's about to talk about topic X (and I know she'll have an immense insight into it)."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello everyone,

This is my first posting on this objectivist forum. I hope people are still reading these as most of the postings seem over a year old. I have just recently finished reading "Altas Shrugged", and like so many others it has changed my life. Maybe that is slightly inaccurate though. More like it helped to cement and give fom and substance to things that I always thought, and knew to be true.

It was a strange experience reading it, unlike any other novel I have ever read. While I admit first, that it was not the best, or most entertaining story that I have ever read. The ideas behind the story are what makes it so poweful. I am now 34 years old, and have read it at this age by a little bit of luck. Somehow I think that if I had read it earlier in my life, it would not have had nearly the impact that it did. Intelligence I have always had, but wisdom is something that can only be gained with age and time. At 24 I just had not had enough experiences in the world, to where I think reading this novel would have influenced me the way that it has now.

I can really see things more clearly now. Whereas before there were only half formed ideas to why people acted the way that they do, I can now see what motivates the behavior. I recently got into an argument with a co-worker and he turned to me and said.. "yes... well... but who am I to judge?". I can remember just staring in complete awe and wonder at him... and I swear in my mind I also heard... "who is john galt". So I explained to him.... that saying "who am I to judge" is the equivalent of saying, "who am I to live". Did you pick your wife without getting to know her? Did you pick a profession you had no interest in" Did you have friends that you hate? I explained to him that he had "judged" all of these people in his life. That "judging" is what people do to survive, and to thrive in the world. So if in fact he would not judge anyone, that he really did not want to live. As expected, all I got back was a blank stare.

This newfound understanding while liberating, exhilerating, and wonderful, does actually haev a downside. It is a burden to know the truth sometimes. I can no longer aford myself the luxury of remaining ignorant. While choosing "not to think" is certainly easier, it is not an option anymore. Although it is a burden I accpet gladly, and would not want it to be any other way.

I actually finished reading Atlas Shrugged on the 50th anniversary of it's being released to the very day. Not something that was planned.... but I do appreciate the coicidence. :(

I hope someone may read this, and I hope it makes their day. There are a few "candles in the darkness" out here in the void. We have heard the call of the sane and the rational and have vowed never to go back.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome to THE FORUM, armor99. I hope you can enjoy what you read and discuss here and create some good experiences.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hello everyone,

This is my first posting on this objectivist forum.

Welcome!
I recently got into an argument with a co-worker and he turned to me and said.. "yes... well... but who am I to judge?". I can remember just staring in complete awe and wonder at him... and I swear in my mind I also heard... "who is john galt". So I explained to him.... that saying "who am I to judge" is the equivalent of saying, "who am I to live". Did you pick your wife without getting to know her? Did you pick a profession you had no interest in" Did you have friends that you hate? I explained to him that he had "judged" all of these people in his life. That "judging" is what people do to survive, and to thrive in the world. So if in fact he would not judge anyone, that he really did not want to live. As expected, all I got back was a blank stare.
This is a great example of giving a great explanation of how to use a parachute and then saying "Jump!" You show a great deal of insight into your own process and just how much experience ("wisdom" being essentially applied experience) it took you to integrate Objectivism into your life. I think your conversation with your colleague could have stopped with the first, excellent part, in which you pointed out the inconsistency of his "theory" with his practice. Validating someone's judgement, pointing out how they do judge and how it serves them, advances their life, protects them, makes life better, was a big piece of information to swallow and, after much cogitation, it might be strategically more effective to then follow up, in a further conversation, with the observation that this judgement that he engages in is his means of survival and saying "who am I to judge" leaves his life to the depradations of anyone and anything else that might drive it this way or that. Some people live this way; if he doesn't, he might then be able to absorb this essential. But I certainly agree with your initial approach, but I have found that high density presentation can often obscure a more fundamental truth and make it hard to absorb.

Keep in mind that Ayn Rand herself reportedly developed her philosophy inductively, not deductively, starting with observations about Politics, then on the necessary conditions of politics, that is Morality, then on the requisite Nature of Man, then on the basis of Man's existence, Epistemology and Metaphysics, not the other way around. OPAR is presented, essentially, in hierarchical (deductive) order, a presentation of a complete philosophy from the most fundamental precepts in Metaphysics and Epistemology to the dependent branches, all the way to Aesthetics. But people learn by asking the 'Why's of things and working backward, the way Rand did. That, and keeping it concise, in easily digestible building blocks, takes longer, but works better in my experience. I think that's why Rand chose fiction to make her points, following her characters' observation and integration from life into more and more fundamental philosophic understanding. Then again, sometimes, people will just not get it or don't want to. You had the courage to question fundamental assumptions, not everyone does. But maybe we can give them pause to reflect and 'check their premises.'

Again, welcome to The Forum. Looking forward to your contributions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...

This newfound understanding while liberating, exhilerating, and wonderful, does actually haev a downside. It is a burden to know the truth sometimes. I can no longer aford myself the luxury of remaining ignorant. While choosing "not to think" is certainly easier, it is not an option anymore. Although it is a burden I accpet gladly, and would not want it to be any other way.

...

This is an interesting observation.

I would not characterize knowledge of the truth as a burden, but indeed it can at first seem like a burden - as when somebody has just learned of an unpleasant fact.

And indeed, once one knows Objectivism, if one wants to do the right thing, refusing to think is no longer an option. I wonder if this realization is something that turns some people away from Objectivism - that is, they see (maybe not explicitly and in so many words) that if they accept Ayn Rand's philosophy, life is going to be different from now on. They won't be able to engage in whims any longer, without facing the negative judgment of their own minds. They'll have to follow their minds, and follow the truth, wherever it leads them. Perhaps there are some people who instead want to keep the option of not thinking(??).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would not characterize knowledge of the truth as a burden, but indeed it can at first seem like a burden - as when somebody has just learned of an unpleasant fact.

And indeed, once one knows Objectivism, if one wants to do the right thing, refusing to think is no longer an option. I wonder if this realization is something that turns some people away from Objectivism - that is, they see (maybe not explicitly and in so many words) that if they accept Ayn Rand's philosophy, life is going to be different from now on. They won't be able to engage in whims any longer, without facing the negative judgment of their own minds. They'll have to follow their minds, and follow the truth, wherever it leads them. Perhaps there are some people who instead want to keep the option of not thinking(??).

To them, the effort of thinking and pondering deeper issues is perceived as an undesirable burden. It's certainly more work than they had expected, which seems to be what Oleksandr meant by a "burden", but in his case one he is willing to accept because to him it is worth it for the values it makes possible rather than something to be avoided.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes Armor99, I know what you mean and how you feel about Atlas Shrugged. I'm reading it now and it has been powerful for me. In several spots I have dogeared pages where Miss Rand boils down the thought being trasmitted to a couple sentences. These tidbits are so amazing.

While Objectivism is new to me I'm under the impression that it hasn't gotten a fair shake. It's easy for a non-thinker, non-reader to just label it as cold greed. However, I'm not getting that in Atlas Shrugged at all. I see plenty of charity. It's not the popular view of charity. I've never been one to give blindly to a cause but I'm honest. These days, honesty is a form of rare charity.

I also think we've seen plenty of "looters" in the past six months.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Keep in mind that Ayn Rand herself reportedly developed her philosophy inductively, not deductively, starting with observations about Politics, then on the necessary conditions of politics, that is Morality, then on the requisite Nature of Man, then on the basis of Man's existence, Epistemology and Metaphysics, not the other way around. OPAR is presented, essentially, in hierarchical (deductive) order, a presentation of a complete philosophy from the most fundamental precepts in Metaphysics and Epistemology to the dependent branches, all the way to Aesthetics. But people learn by asking the 'Why's of things and working backward, the way Rand did. That, and keeping it concise, in easily digestible building blocks, takes longer, but works better in my experience. I think that's why Rand chose fiction to make her points, following her characters' observation and integration from life into more and more fundamental philosophic understanding. Then again, sometimes, people will just not get it or don't want to. You had the courage to question fundamental assumptions, not everyone does. But maybe we can give them pause to reflect and 'check their premises.'

Again, welcome to The Forum. Looking forward to your contributions.

I don´t know if this is of any interest, but my interest in philosophy also started with politics, then developed into an interest in ethics, and then in epistemology and metaphysics. I began by know that I valued (political) freedom. I realized that freedom needed an intelletual foundation. So I set about reading books, and eventually I discovered the works of Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand showed me the importance of formal ethics, epistemology and metaphysics. So I also went in a "backward" way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is an interesting observation.

I would not characterize knowledge of the truth as a burden, but indeed it can at first seem like a burden - as when somebody has just learned of an unpleasant fact.

And indeed, once one knows Objectivism, if one wants to do the right thing, refusing to think is no longer an option. I wonder if this realization is something that turns some people away from Objectivism - that is, they see (maybe not explicitly and in so many words) that if they accept Ayn Rand's philosophy, life is going to be different from now on. They won't be able to engage in whims any longer, without facing the negative judgment of their own minds. They'll have to follow their minds, and follow the truth, wherever it leads them. Perhaps there are some people who instead want to keep the option of not thinking(??).

I suppose that the reason that I did not recoil in horror, when I first saw that Ayn Rand challenged and rejected the morality of altruism, was that I was already opposed to subjectivism, i.e. whim worship, before I came to Objectivism. Already being on the premise of reason makes you receptive to Objectivism, for obvious reasons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes Armor99, I know what you mean and how you feel about Atlas Shrugged. I'm reading it now and it has been powerful for me. In several spots I have dogeared pages where Miss Rand boils down the thought being trasmitted to a couple sentences. These tidbits are so amazing.

While Objectivism is new to me I'm under the impression that it hasn't gotten a fair shake. It's easy for a non-thinker, non-reader to just label it as cold greed. However, I'm not getting that in Atlas Shrugged at all. I see plenty of charity. It's not the popular view of charity. I've never been one to give blindly to a cause but I'm honest. These days, honesty is a form of rare charity.

I also think we've seen plenty of "looters" in the past six months.

I would say that honesty is an expression of benevolence, but not "charity". I think that you have to be a benevolent person, in order to be honest. If you have a malevolent view of reality, then you will feel that reality, and therefore the truth, is your enemy. And if you have a malevolent view of people, if you think that all men are scum and swine, then you will be tempted to try to deceive them before they deceive you.

But if you do not think that either reality or other men are your enemies, then you will not see any reason to fake things. Why would the unreal be of more value than the real?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The following is one of my blog posts. The original is here. I have recently read it over, and found that I like it enough to share elsewhere other than my blog. I feel it belongs to this forum. Judge this yourself.

Hi Oleksandr, perhaps what you are trying to describe, is that you were trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together, and that while you were familiar with a lot of the pieces, it wasn't until Ayn Rand showed you the cover picture on the box, that you started to reorganize the pieces. It's how the pieces fit to give you the whole, that makes you feel life is less of a puzzle. :D

I read The Virtue of Selfishness before I read Atlas Shrugged or any other books by Ayn Rand. I was amazed by how lucid Ayn Rand was in explaining the absurd contradictions and implications of the morality of altruism. I kept asking myself, why didn´t I see that on my own, before altruism had been able to do so much damage to my life?

Unfortunately, most people, myself included, do not choose to do as much independent thinking on abstract subjects, such as ethics and epistemology, as Ayn Rand did.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites