I used to have a bumper sticker that read: "Who is John Galt?" Sometimes people left notes on my dashboard saying "we love that book too!" referring to Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged'. This year is the book's 50th anniversary. I read it when I was 19 years old. My friend Stephanie recommended it to me. I loved it, but had a hard time describing why to my friends or even what it was about. To me it was sort of about the economy, sort of a story about a woman, and mostly about knowing what you want out of life and not being apathetic. I think that's why the book affected me so much was because at that time I didn't know what I wanted. I was headed back to BYU, partly out of ignorance of what other possibilities I had. I was going to study archaeology because I loved it, and somehow I thought it would bring me adventure. I did know that I didn't want to be another person who talked about doing things but never actually did them. So the book sort of got me started on being unafraid to go after what I wanted. Some people call it selfishness, but for me it was about self-actualization. Why should I stay in Provo after graduation just because I had a boyfriend there? I wanted to get out into the world. I've had a lot of great times with people that didn't know what they wanted--and I think there's a difference between being a happy wanderer and being completely direction-less. But just knowing what you want to get out of things made everything more meaningful for me.
Having seen a lot of articles about the book recently because of the anniversary, I was reminded of all the things it did for me, or at least helped me realize so I could do them for myself. It gave me a sense of control and authority over my own life. It felt empowered to do the things that I dreamt of. I still have a huge problem with guilt, and in some ways, my sense of responsibility holds me back as well. So I'm still working on it, but I do believe that if you're holding the world on your back and it's getting heavier and heavier and you don't know why you're holding it, why not just shrug? Why continue to do things that have no meaning for you?
So if you've never read the book and most likely never will (it's a daunting 1000 pages), I'm sharing a poem I found a few years back that shares a similar philosophy. It's an alternate version of the famous 'Desiderata', the original version is quite beautiful and you can find it here
I like to call this version the Ayn Rand version and mine too. (On a side-note, my version generally represents my path through life--fighting against everything handed me, while the original seems like the approach of my two favorite people, my twin sister and my husband, two people who admirably sort of happily float through life and what it brings them--just my perception guys, we can argue later):
23 August 1995
Don't go placidly amid the apathy and lethargy. Remember that your silence is consent and there can be no peace where there is injustice.
You can't please all the people all the time, so shout your truth from the mountain top and don't accept nonsense from the bigoted, the ignorant and the self-serving.
Don't avoid people who are upset. They may have good reasons and your care and interest may make them less aggressive.
Be tolerant of the diversity that makes everyone special and be aware that there are no persons greater or lesser than yourself.
Don't live in the past or future. Enjoy the present.
Don't become obsessed by your own career. It cannot give you security or possession of anything or anyone.
Exercise trust in your dealings but be circumspect, as the world is full of materialists.
Become yourself. Express affection for all people and all species.
Be sceptical about romance for it is as transient as a summer flower.
Don't become tired in your ways and never surrender your sense of wonder. Don't be defensive. Be optimistic and imaginative.
Fatigue and loneliness are born of fear. Be rigorous in accepting responsibility for your actions and their consequences.
You are a child of your less than perfect parents and like the trees and the stars your time will pass. And whether or not it is clear to you, things are not working out nearly as well as they could.
Whatever you conceive God to be, also be aware that every single thing you do actually changes the world. Dreams cannot be broken and they will give you no peace if you don't act with integrity.
Unfortunately, this world is becoming uglier each day.
Strive for the right of all people to make their own paths.
Found in a South Australian kitchen. Copyright 1992 Andrew Bunney.