It’s not often in my life that I think of someone’s name, and it gives me simultaneously warm and cold shivers of truth. That person for me, is author Ayn Rand. When such occurrences arise, I can feel the spirit of the author knock on my door and say, “Pay attention. I want you to do something this.”
Do something with what? Something with her book Atlas Shrugged. Now, as a writer and poet, I often roll my eyes when this happens. Because I would prefer writing my own sh*t and for my own pleasure. Just as I had read Ayn’s book for my own pleasure. But every now and again, messages like these knock on your door to incite some form of action. To spread its word. So rather than you inviting the message in for a chat and a warm cup of tea … the message just asks you out!
So here is my tribute to the time I spent with this text as I journeyed across Italy. From the wine regions of Gavi, to Venice, Florence, and of course Rome …
Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand’s ‘Magnum Opus’ (masterpiece) book that is as relevant today, as it will undoubtedly be in the forever future of humanity. This book’s philosophy, narrative, and architecture–preserves and progresses the timeless discourse re what justice truly is. And it does so through a rich, more contemporary narrative.
Centered around the protagonist Dagny Taggart, and the question “Who is John Galt?”–this text covers Dagny’s journey as an executive of a railway organization during the industrial age. One where her aspirations of achievement and productivity are severely challenged–as she grows to understand more and more about the unseen forces that govern her world and her company–towards a fate of destruction. Worse yet, these forces rely on her to save them when its efforts go to shit, and fight against it (as a foe) when its busy making everything else go to shit. Dagny fights, of course. She repeatedly triumphs and fails, of course. All that you would expect from a great novel.
The one book which I believe, is too great to ever be on screen, or on a television. It deserves to be read, and read only.
For my dear fellow human beings who want to live a life of expression, productivity, and prosperity–this is probably the one text you will love to have by your side. Why? It’s not the characters, who are clearly crafted individually, and in the way they interact. It is not the context that is so vividly expressed in text. It is not the tension and relief forces that the author beautifully architects in the flow of the story.
No. It is the fact that the story, in all its rich representations, reveal the structure of the unseen forces that govern our lives. The lives of your friends, family, loved ones, and the collective human Soul. These unseen forces, because they are out of sight, and out of mind–end up governing our sight and our minds. Telling us what to see, how to perceive, and how to live. And more contrivedly, the forces celebrate their feats of greatness (Stadiums, Churches, High-Rise Towers, Casinos, Hotels, Spacecraft etc.), built on the blood and flesh of the common man.
Men and women, time immemorial, have fought against these forces. Through their; music, artworks, films, commercial ventures, political rigour, and schools of thought. Besides being unwavering to their principals, all too often, they fall victim to the fact that their very own heart-loving brethren are weaponized against them. Simple example we all know too well; look at the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008, and how many people tried to warn the population, only to be; ridiculed, cast-out, and stripped of their recognition. Look back at the doctors in the earlier 1900’s who proposed that cancer and diet had a link; they lost their certificate of practice, and were ridiculed by the very people they most lovingly wanted to serve.
Sadly, these people really don’t want to have to face their neighbour and say, “I told you so!!” No. They aren’t even gifted the satisfaction of being able to say that. Why? Because the reality of the tragedy they fought so hard to prevent, has taken full effect. It is not their ego that seeks satisfaction. It is their bruised heart and soul.
This book offers insight into what we truly signed up for when we chose to be human. It brings together a dynamic and well presented interaction between the many factions of man; politics, business, resources, infrastructure, religion, personal life, educational institutions, scientific research, media etc. Things that the every day person can relate to. The feeling it induces is metaphysically powerful. The words and constructs it portrays are of the highest, tangible intellect.
When you read this, and look at the world you live in … you will be pissed off. Initially, you will feel what many have felt–the call to be civilly disobedient. You will want to rage against the government, the banking system, the media, the medical system, and the mainstream educational system. You may even want to martyr yourself for a god-given cause. But living this way solely, provides no solace. Channeling that fuel to fight the system has, time and time again, proven to be unfruitful. Just as our human predecessors spanning many centures have proven when they lost their lives.
But that doesn’t mean one should give up. I don’t think so anyway. In my opinion, it is up to us to find a better way. One that takes a subtler, more patient path to progress. Because as my mentor Carl Buchheit says, if you want to influence or change a system, all of its people and its parts must be respected. That doesn’t mean you have to agree, like them, or invite them to sit on your couch. It simply means they have to be considered and respected for the place they have in our world. And they are here to stay. “Okay.” So then, from a stance of inclusion, we can ask ourselves the question that helps us all exercise more of our right to our way of living … “Now, what would I like?”
This book is an invitation to soul searching. I believe the greater gift of this text, is in the way it invites us ‘out’ to introspect. To take a hard look at our lives, our values, and the passages through which they can be expressed in our day and age. Especially in a world that can seduce even the purest canvas to go dark.
“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
Note: I don’t subscribe to Ayn Rand’s school of “Objectivism.” Because neither do I agree or endorse the entirety of it. But I do love her work. I adore it, because it is the culmination of Ayn’s life’s experiences and ideals, expressed in its purest and most richest form. The fact she did so, is what touches my heart. Because I too believe in my own work, that I am on a similar path. To breathe life to the things that matter most as I count my days towards my death.
Below, I share what I believe are the key points of consideration from Ayn’s text.
- What does a life well-lived mean for you?
- How does that life look?
- What is the larger governing context(s) that is governing the way you live, what you have, who you hang with, and what you speak?
- In what matter can your ideals, your highest personally defined version of a life well-lived, thrive in this larger context?
- Can they truly thrive in that governing context?
- So … how will you choose to live?
I have found my answers, and I continue to refine them. These answers are mine only, and mine to keep. Perhaps this book will help you further clarify and define your own, if not already. But best of all, it’ll challenge everything in the world you believe to be absolute …
Atlas Shrugged is worth its weight in words!