There is one thing I regret, more than anything else in the world. It’s that Ayn Rand died years before I was born. This post should have been a mail to her. These words are for her.
For those of you who’ve never heard of/never read Ayn Rand’s books, let me give you the short version. She created the philosophy of Objectivism, which says that life is real, we are what we make of ourselves, and that guilt is evil.
Hers is the philosophy of selfishness. Selfishness, admiration and respect and love of the self, is good. The only possible goals a man can work towards are his own. The only possible ideas a man can live by are his own. The only possible life a man can live is his own.
Most people never understand this, because common wisdom encourages selflessness and charity. But if you don’t assume blindly that selfishness is evil, you realise it’s the only way you can work hard at your own goals, gain your own successes, and be happy without feeling guilty that there are others in the world not as happy as you.
I wouldn’t have got it myself. I just wouldn’t have thought of it at all. I’d have felt the guilt. Because yeah, there are things I could do to improve the world and others’ lives. There are things anyone can do. Any person willing to live for others can do good for them in the short term.
But forget about the long-term negatives; the reason I don’t do those things is because I don’t want to. I want to live for myself. That is my priority, always has been. So in the era before Ayn Rand, as it were, there was a lot of guilt.
This is appreciation, and it will be a long post, since I have a lot to appreciate here.
The short version is, very simply: Ayn Rand, THANK YOU.
My parents are rational thinkers. They introduced my brother and myself to Ayn Rand through The Fountainhead when I was barely into my teens. Her novels saved me from a life of perpetual confusion.
I’ve always known that certain beliefs are wrong, and some are right. Yet I’m told that all beliefs hold equal value. I’ve always known that what I make, what I create, what I write, what I own, is MINE. Yet I’m told that all property is theft, that my primary duty is to help the less fortunate, that even art is a blessing from the unknown. I have no particular objection to charity, but surely my primary duty is to creating value for myself, not for others.
It is hard when the world tells a child things that directly contradict what she believes (reinforced by my parents’ beliefs – they were never a part of “the world”, which is part of why I love them so much). It was even harder when I decided I was blindly accepting what my parents said and decided to consider every thought that came my way. That was when I heard of “If the majority believes it, it’s true.”
I was a kid. I didn’t know what to do. If the majority thought that socialism was the right way for India (not that I put it in so sweeping a scope then) then maybe they were right.
It took me quite a while to get over that phase. But when I was around thirteen, I think (not that I made a note) that I first read The Fountainhead.
The world changed.
It changed again when I read Atlas Shrugged, when I read John Galt’s speech right at the end, when I read Ayn Rand’s essays, when I had the words to express exactly why I was so worried at the way the world was meandering, and what I should do, for my part.
Without her, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And I like who I am today.
Which is why I say, Ayn Rand, I wish you were alive today. Because it’s just dumb to say that “wherever you may be, I know you’re listening” (since the very concept of life beyond death, or any other supernatural phenomenon associated with HER, is – well, it’s sacrilege, really), but I do wish you could hear me say: THANK YOU.