“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.”
Sorry for the absence, for the last 6 days I have been caught up with reading a book that has not only inspired me, but also forced me to completely reevaluate how I live my life. Usually a book doesn’t stay with me long after it’s finished, however Atlas Shrugged is a book that I’m sure will stay with me for a long time. Just a quick round up of things, I’ve been preparing to go back to Toronto, and figuring out some details for the documentary. Thankfully our broken camera is fixed, and we can hopefully start work as soon as I get there. I’m a bit behind on planner work, since I’ve been so caught up at home and with the book but hopefully I should be able to make up for lost time. I’ve also found a study buddy to start working on my courses for next year with, and I’m hoping to start drawing a positive association with studying by procrastinating on my other responsibilities in the summer by studying (yay psychology!). Anyways, lets get to the meaty stuff.
Strong, resilient, stereotype breaking female characters are often what make a book stand out for me and Atlas Shrugged did that better than any other book that I’ve ever read. My other female icons include Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation) and Lyra Belacqua (His Dark Materials Trilogy), Dagny Taggart just joined the list. She not only inspires me to be passionate about what I do, and be absolutely amazing at it, but she also inspires me to embrace my feminity. She is often referred to as a man in the business world which so effortless dominates, but she embodies every single ideal that I have ever hoped to reach: competent, intelligent, beautiful, sensual and completely in command of her body and mind. A theme running throughout the book is the union of the body and mind, and not to treat them as separate entities. It identifies sex as the most selfish of needs and one of the greatest representations of the mind, and scorns at anyone who says that love is unselfish, and “is just is”. This ideology sounded like something that I’d been waiting to listen my whole life, love along with everything else is earned. Earned by the value of the other person, and payed by you in your own value. It is not a sacrifice, it is a trade, and i realize those words don’t sound pleasant, but think of how simple that makes everything! People say they don’t understand love, Atlas Shrugged says “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” And that is how I feel the world treats love. This falls in with the books other more prominent theme of earning everything you have and the importance of the mind.
While the book constantly condemns socialism very explicitly, the ideology behind this struck me. I recently read something by Mindy Lahiri which went along the lines of, “I earned my confidence”, and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything more true. Similarly, we earn most things in life, and we pay for them in some way or the other. This book made me feel ashamed for openly asking people to do favours for me and not giving them any value in return and relying solely on their altruism (and my charm of course). However, while this gave me a sense of peace and a more logical way to look at life (which is always wonderful), it also troubled me when I started thinking of the need for random acts of altruism in our daily life, for example the recent fort Mc Murray incident. How were all those people supposed to be saved had it not been for the generosity of Canadians. I think the answer is that, as long as it is not a sacrifice then an act of altruism is justified. Or perhaps I just need to check my premise.
Beyond Ayn Rands philosophy of objectivism, which I will most certainly be reading about more in detail, what stands out are the books characters. All the protagonists are brilliant and beautiful people. People who have worked unbelievably hard to achieve what they believe in, people who used their minds for the most brilliant of purposes rather than to let them rot. The kind of people I aspire to be. The book has given me a lot to think about, from my own personal morals, since I don’t have any and run on the whim, and also about my dedication to myself and existence itself. Have I been cheating myself by half-assing my work for all these years, and does that mean I didn’t value my life as much as I should’ve? Perhaps. After learning in schools where any sign of intelligence beyond the syllabus was mocked and disdained, and all that mattered was memorizing the revision sheet before the exam, it is no surprise that at one point I held the ideology that the secret to happiness is not thinking. But I think I might’ve stumbled upon a bigger truth in this book, the secret to happiness lies in pure unadulterated hard work and pride of achievement. I’m afraid that we live in a world that is far too okay with being average, and at certain times even celebrates it. I’m not sure of my claim and could not argue it at this point, but I will definitely be observing and trying to reach a conclusion about that statement.
So, who is John Galt? John Galt is the man who made the Atlas’s of the world shrug. John Galt, is a man and a metaphor. And as someone who loves metaphors he is quite the ideal character and a most worthy protagonist. John Galt is also in some way the man who motivated a young girl to further take control of her own life, and use her mind to her own advantage and to never let anyone else claim their stake in her life.