On the last pages of the 35th anniversary edition (Plume Book, 1992) of Atlas Shrugged, in a section entitled “About the Author,” we read:
“My personal life,” says Ayn Rand, “is a postscript to my novels: it consists of the sentence: ‘And I mean it.’ I have always lived by the philosophy I present in my books—and it has worked for me, as it works for my characters. …” (p. 1170).She describes her characters, heroes, (and self) thus:
It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason …) … [But he must] not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator’s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander (p. xii).The trouble with Ayn however, (and her enthusiasts) is at least twofold. Firstly, the “over-optimism” and “over-confidence” in “man as heroic being”—i.e., in the creators, prime-movers, “ideal men” of her philosophy. About such men she wrote:
“I trust that no one will tell me that men such as I write about don’t exist. That this book has been written—and published—is my proof that they do” (p. 1171).[Wow! What a formula! “To write and publish = proof.”]
But back to “over-confidence” and “over-optimism.”
Ayn critiques her heroine Dagny for:
Over-optimism—in that she thinks men [second-handers, i.e. non-creators] are better than they are, she doesn’t really understand them and is generous about it.The parallel between the error-afflicted Dagny and the optimistic, idealistic Ayn might be written thus (= my proof!?)
Over-confidence—in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can [i.e., work with second-handers on a rational basis or as their motivator] (p. xi).
Over-optimism—in that [Ayn] thinks men [“creators”] are better than they are, she doesn’t really understand them and is generous about it.All of which brings us to the second “trouble”: Ayn’s apparent inability to see inverse and parallels. She seems to have no awareness of “on the other hand.” Let’s take a small portion of John Galt’s radio address. He accuses the world he has abandoned:
Over-confidence—in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can [i.e., accomplish many things of great import without some large element of the dreaded collective—like building/running a railroad, a steel mill, an oil refinery, a factory, etc., etc.]
… You have sacrificed justice to mercy. You have sacrificed independence to unity. You have sacrificed reason to faith. You have sacrificed wealth to need. You have sacrificed self-esteem to self-denial. You have sacrificed happiness to duty (p. 1010).In our corrupted, fallen world, some of that may be, too frequently, true, but what if we take the inverse? Might Christians not say to Ayn/John:
YOU [in your Objective/Subjective? style) have sacrificed mercy to [your sense of] justice. You have sacrificed unity to independence. You have sacrificed faith to reason. You have sacrificed need to wealth. You have sacrificed self-denial to self-esteem. You have sacrificed duty to happiness.And might we not add? When is anything so cut and dried—so either/or? Isn’t most of life a synthesis? Justice AND mercy. Independence AND unity. Reason AND faith. Wealth AND need. Self-esteem AND self-denial. Happiness AND duty.
As admitted, Ayn profiles some unfortunate truths because our world is a revolving, recycling mess. And why is that? Is it not, in large measure, because too many of us are committed to having things/ ideas/ expectations/ rewards/ compensations/ relationships, etc. on OUR terms, in OUR way, according to OUR reason and nature, without acknowledging limited vision, comprehension, maturity, etc.—not to mention, our neighbor?
Ayn’s fictional elitists are convinced the world cannot exist without their “minds”—without their way of doing things. In short, Ayn is just one more in a long line of passionate, déjà vu advocates for “having it, doing it MY way.” Except, with her (God-given!) gifts, she has created epic, sympathetic anti-heroes—which leads us to a third “trouble.”
The third “trouble” is that Ayn’s deftness in comparing the worst corruptions of religion, society, and government to the superlative imaginations of “ideal man” has led many a good Christian down the garden path, past the tree of knowledge and into that twilight where John Galt “traced in space the sign of the dollar” (p. 1168).
For thoughts about another Ayn enthusiast who was also inverse-/parallel-challenged, see: http://www.dejavu-times.blogspot.ca/2010/03/if-how-what.html