About five years ago, I read Ayn Rand's monumental novel "The Fountainhead," and it changed my life. I was immediately inspired by Rand's philosophy and dug into her work a bit deeper.
When I got to "Atlas Shrugged," however, I was terribly disappointed. "The Fountainhead" won me over by telling a fantastic story with great, unforgettable characters and I was enamored with her "art-is-sacred-and-should-never-be-compromised" ethos.
But with "Atlas Shrugged," Rand clobbers us with her philosophy for more than a thousand painfully unedited pages, which not only ruins the story, but it insults the reader. The book is incredibly heavy-handed and boring, but it made me think enough to start questioning her philosophy.
For those of you who are not familiar with Rand's "triumph-of-the-ego" credo, I will let you discover it on your own if you care. But to those of you who are familiar -- am I wrong in saying that her worldview is too simplistic to work in real life? And am I wrong to take issue with the implicit (and sometimes explicit) sense of anti-altruism that courses through her work?
Life isn't as black and white as Rand paints it, and we don't all start out on equal footing in this world. Some of us are born to face a lifetime of incredible disadvantages and some of us simply are not. And sometimes folks just get sidelined by plain old bad luck. Those of us who are still lucky enough to be relatively fortunate in life SHOULD HELP THEM. Would Ayn Rand have donated money to the tsunami victims this year?
I gotta go with the Bible on this one: "you will be judged by how you treat the least among you."
Or Donne: "no man is an island."
Howard Roark is still my hero, but as far as Rand's philosophy goes, I take what I need from it and move on.