Friday, December 23, 2011

PART I: Rand, the lady who SHRUGGED the ATLAS, has now got my HEAD Under a FOUNTAIN.

OKAY I ADMIT IT, I am have strayed from the straight and narrow and am actually reading a novel.  And indeed that is quite a novel thing for me to do.  Ever since I was a teenager, I have kept track of the books I have read, and unless forced to read non-fiction by a teacher or professor, or coerced into it by a loving wife or daughter "so I can identify with their interests", the vast majority are non-fiction.

This time though, I decided to pick up a paperback edition (non-fiction in my opinion is seldom worth the money of a hardcover; perhaps an eBook version would have been better) of Ayn Rand's book, written in 1943, called THE FOUNTAINHEAD. Why you may ask?  Well, because one of the business magazines I subscribe to recommended it as top-notch reading for anyone in management.  That coupled with the on-going exposure this now dead author has, I decided to give it a try.

I have read 44 pages of the book (well really 55 if you count the 11 pages of Rand's introduction to this edition entitled "Introduction to the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition" which would put it at 1968).  Here are my thoughts so far.  I hope to share a few more before I wade through the 704 pages (715 if you count her 'intro'), but who's counting.  After all, it is the Christmas Season (something Rand herself did not believe in for it was) and I just may find time to get a couple of hundred pages read.  Her estate and foundation should be thankful we have such a Season.
  1. On page 8 of her introduction, she informs the reader that she is an atheist.  I made a note in the column as follows, "I struggle to read an atheist, but I press on."  The problem with a Christian reading an atheist is that our worldviews are total antitheses of each other.  We have very little foundational basis on which we can build our mutual descriptions and beliefs of what is taking place.  We can agree on facts which are tangible in nature.  For example, she (if she were alive today) and I could agree that we are about to have a snow-less Christmas in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  But once we get to the issue of 'why', our mutual points of common beliefs start to diminish.  Oh, we may have some common understandings of the science of weather, but that would be about it.  If one of us were to push further as to how those tenets or principles of the science were put into place, we would be at great odds.  Yet in this point in her introduction she writes, referring to one part in her book, "I said that religious abstractions are the product of man's mind, not of supernatural revelation."  I find it amazing that she does agree there are abstractions and minds.  And by referring to supernatural revelation implies she is aware of the phenomenon and thus the possibility of its existence -- although I'm sure she was not likely to benefit from any such experience herself.  Of course, she never answers the matter of just how abstractions and minds are what they are and do what they do.  Atheists have limited knowledge after all.
  2. On page 10 of her intro she writes, "The man-worshipers, in my sense of the term, are those who see man's highest potential and strive to actualize it.  The man-haters are those who regard man as a helpless, depraved, contemptible creature -- and struggle never to let him discover otherwise.  It is important here to remember that the only direct, introspective knowledge of man anyone possesses is of himself."  Rand seems to be totally unaware that Christian is someone who sees man's highest potential, but knows he can only achieve it through God.  Instead, she has all of us hating man and seeing him as a depraved creature.  In reality, we see man as fallen, and depraved by his own choice, but not created as helpless or contemptible.  Man's journey then becomes one of seeking to discover the potential that he once had and doing so by finding God.  Rand closes her paragraph here by saying that our only source of "introspective knowledge" is indeed ourselves.  Agreed, by definition.  But that does not mean that all of us see what she sees when we look at ourselves.
  3. On page 11 of her intro she believes that some of us can achieve a greater sense of life and purpose and thus writes, ". . . a sense of enormous expectation, the sense that one's life is important, that great achievements are within one's capacity, and that great things lie ahead."  And I say "of course."  For the Christian, that is all possible WITH God.  She ends her intro with these sad words by which I believe she condemns herself, "It does not matter taht only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of man's proper stature -- and that the rest will betray it.  It is those few that move the world and give life its meaning -- and it is those few that I have always sought to address.  The rest are no concern of mine; it is not me or The Fountainhead that they will betray; it is their own souls."  Well, she has succeeded to do just that -- she has betrayed her own soul for eternity.   Her 'few' that move the world have certainly done a great job of it -- look how perfect the world is these days.
  4. On page 44 of her actual book, and understanding the fact that she was writing in 1943, I find the first evidence of her not being the eternally-wise author she believed she was or that others established her as.  She writes, "But the tenants of the Dana Building were not numerous; no prominent man wished his business to be located in a building that looked 'like a warehouse.'"  As I read this in 2011, prominent businessmen and women are fighting over new and trendy warehouse space.
I'll carry on examining Rand's other views in the days ahead.  I hope I can stay with it -- if not, I'll let you know.  In the meantime, I know many of you have read this work of hers and I'd love to hear from you, but please don't give away the plot -- although my wife tells me there isn't much of one -- it's all about a philosophy.  We'll see.   And Merry Christmas.

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