I try to stay away from politics and religion as such in this blog, but where personal philosophy crosses over can sometimes get muddled. And as I explain in the Welcome Page, Charlie’s Corner Cafe is a place where you can slip in for a short time or linger for as long as you like – it’s a 24-hour kind of place. Depending on your age, it may have been a while since you sat around with your preferred beverage and some good friends discussing philosophy. It was Ayn Rand’s birthday yesterday and no, I am not a member of the institute, but I also want to acknowledge both what an influence Atlas Shrugged was on my life and express my personal opinion that Ayn Rand (like Abraham Maslow) is often misunderstood in an attempt to “sound bite” them. That discussion, however, is way too lengthy for this post.
The thing is this – I discovered Atlas Shrugged when I was 18 (could have been 19) and even as a reader, I was initially daunted by the 1000+ pages. In truth, the individual who suggested that I read the book had been more intrigued by the intricacy of the book than by the philosophy and so I wasn’t prepared for what I was to find. At that stage of my life, I was emotionally roiling with rebellion against the kind of person that I was supposed to be. For anyone who has grown up in a small town (or a neighborhood that might as well be a small town), you know exactly what I mean when I say that having someone to help me with my frustration was difficult. Within the pages of Atlas Shrugged, however, I found that voice of individualism that I was aching for. I was a literature person mind you with a standard, although Eurocentric, grounding from Sophocles to Steinbeck. Existentialsim held a certain allure and yes, I read Jean-Paul Sartre in French, but did do Simone DeBeauvior in English. It was Rand though who touched me most, who provided me with that, “Yes, I am not alone in these thoughts”, moment that can be so crucial to forming one’s philosophical outlook. Well, laying the foundation, because I am not about to claim a fully formed outlook at that age. Needless to say, I followed up as quickly as I could with her other works and to these day I can’t recall how many copies of Atlas Shrugged I gave as gifts, or how many times I’ve read the book. (No, I haven’t seen the movie yet and am reluctant to do so since I’m unsure of how well it translated to screen.)
Notwithstanding some of the simplistic aspects of a book written in 1957, if you have never read Atlas Shrugged, I would urge you to do so. If you haven’t read it for several years, it might be time to brush it off, or get it in audio format if that is better for you. By the way, deep into the book there is a 20+ page speech delivered by a charcacter and it was probably my 5th or 6th reading of the book before I tackled that entire thing.
So, belated Happy Birthday Ayn Rand, and thank you for the role that you played in my life.