Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Irresistible Objectivist

My tussle with the work of Ayn Rand has been far from the ordinary intellectual encounter. I am one of those readers who initially finds Ms. Rand's passion contagious but isn't quite as enamored after some retrospection. Ms. Rand's philosophy is like manna to a tempestuous teenager ,who devours each word of 'The Fountainhead' on her sixteenth birthday instead of throwing a 'sweet sixteen' bash. I grew up with the spirit of Howard Roark; his words ringing in my head and his indifference to the establishment dictating every move I made.

Somewhere down the line, I felt the tiniest urge to disagree with Ms. Rand. I couldn't understand the dichotomy of 'to feel or not to feel' expressed by several of her characters. I couldn't quite understand the virtue she associated with selfishness, just as I couldn't understand the virtue of altruism. I didn't find her work particularly 'artistic' but nevertheless, I secretly wished I could be a hardcore objectivist.

Perhaps all the dichotomy was, as philosophers often say, 'within and not without'. Surprisingly, I see Ms. Rand's point with greater clarity now than I ever have before. My readers will find it amusing to know that I started reading 'Atlas Shrugged' soon after I read 'The Brothers Karamazov' (Ms. Rand,although a Russian herself, rejected the mysticism of 19th century Russian authors). I now see that one has the right to 'feel' if one wishes to and that there is nothing 'selfish' in the selfless pursuit of excellence.

The irresistible objectivist wins again!

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