As I said in the last post, “Atlas Shrugged” served as a sort of literary backdrop for what turns out to be my exploration of anger.
Ayn Rand seems mad.
I sometimes get mad AT her while reading her ideas.
I sometimes get mad WITH her as she describes what makes her mad.
I get mad that I resonate with parts of her philosophy, but find many of it’s core principles not only irrational, but frankly, evil.
Why should this last condition make me “mad” I wonder.
Something in me wants to either embrace a way of thinking altogether or reject it altogether. I’m angered by the the apparent reality that there is some truth here, and some truth over there. That, *this thing* is flawed, but it also contains reflections of truth. I truly don’t know why this make me angry…
…perhaps because it prevents me from ever pulling together a cohesive, self-constructed world view that is bullet proof and eternal, and most importantly, one that I can take credit for. Perhaps there are only the following possibilities:
– Delude yourself into thinking you have it all figured out.
– Give up altogether.
-Know that you DON’T have it all figured out and remain open to receive truth.
I think this last option might be the right direction, but the problem is this condition provides no self-constructed security – and that is scary, and I get angry when I’m scared.
By way of example from Rand:
I have been either witness or party to a spate of conflicts in the last couple of months. I mentioned friends who have left in the midst of conflict, there are marriages imploding (seemingly all around me some days) as well as critics of my work and my character. There are philosophical and methodological arguments, and there are straight-up spats between people that affect me in various ways.
In all of these conflicts, I see selfishness as the cause. Not self-interest, but selfishness: A valuing of one’s needs and desires over that of others.
Now, Rand’s characters in “Atlas Shrugged” might ask, “what’s wrong with that?” But even Rand’s philosophy at it’s very core contains a governor on selfishness. “I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
I find it endlessly fascinating that even Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, for all it’s apparent cruelty, Spock-like rationalism and bravado, has in it’s core tenant, an acknowledgment of the “other” and their needs (“rights”, Rand might have said)
I know an argument can be made that the prohibition against obtaining life at the expense of another is simply an acknowledgment that to do so would decrease personal fulfillment. But that just kicks the can down the road: “WHY would pushing someone down and taking their milk money make you feel less fulfilled? I mean – you did it yourself?
No, there seems to be a secret, deep-seated resistance to selfishness. Even in the “Atlas Shrugged” narrative itself, we begin to see that the “bad guys” aren’t bad BECAUSE they are communist/collectivist/altruist. Turns out that they are bad BECAUSE they are greedy, cruel, and dishonest.
In other words, Communism/Collectivism/Altruism are symptoms of a selfishness that does not possess the counter-balancing benevolence of the “John Galt Pledge”.
In addition, it turns out that the good guys’ utpoic reality only begins to take shape when…wait for it….they come together in a cooperative community! (albeit with a strong personal-responsibility doctrine at it’s center).
In other words, “Atlas Shrugged” advocates a kind of selfishness that it then slowly revelas to not actually exist
My conclusion: TRUE selfishness cannot be a virtue. I agree with my friend Don, that, while Objectivism has some merits, the core doctrine of “self-above-all-else” is flawed. Don said,
“From what I understand, the Objectivist epistemology emphasizes perception and reason. Sounds kinda good, but I think it gives perception more weight than it deserves and goes light on *evidence*. I can’t get with that. Individual perception and reason are also quite unreliable. The best espistemological tools we have are collaborative, purposely designed to correct for errors introduced by individual perception and reason.”
This leaves me stuck in that angry place where I am still bereft of a fully self-contained, custom designed, turn-key truth. Sorry – I can’t sign the Objectivist Manifesto. Scary. Meaning “angry”.
Onward to what felt like a totally random choice of listening to “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau. My walk to ad from work has been a joy as I listen to this work. Where has this guy been all my life!