Many years ago, there was a young boy who discovered a writer called Ayn Rand. It wasn’t the first time this name showed itself. He knew about it for a while, even if he misspelled it Any Rand.
He knew that smart people read Rand. That Atlas Shrugged is the kind of book read by millionaires enjoying Havana cigars on yachts. That it was actually mentally stimulating compared to other books that were simply hard to read (I’m looking at you “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”!”).
So he read it. He fell in love with the characters there and the entire philosophy of objectivism. Atlas Shrugged for an introvert with an IQ of almost 150 was like crack cocaine. Addictive and impossible to put down.
(And here will come comments that Atlas Shrugged is a simple philosophy, that it is usually read by stupid people who are lost and so on. Keep your comments to yourself).
From that moment onwards, he … it changed my life. And now, about eight years ago, ironically, I am trying to reverse the negative effects that Atlas Shrugged and objectivism in general had on my life.
Let me explain. Atlas Shrugged is amazing, if you don’t watch it B&H but rather in many shades of grey. 90% of the book is amazing and yes, selfishness, that kind, where you respect values, where you cherish values and where everything is causality is amazingly accurate.
To be honest, even if I don’t personally like Rand (I admire her genius but in some ways, I consider her too self-righteous with a sense of over entitlement.), I find this one of the best philosophy books ever written, next to Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
But then comes the 10%. That 10% that works perfectly fine for you if you have no feelings, no conscious, no emotions, nothing. If you are a robot. But if you are not, it teaches you to supresses all of this, to see you as a tool to get from A to B, forgetting that you are the goal in itself and not something outside of you.
It kind of teaches you to be a sociopath until you realize that as a sociopath you may gain money, wealth and fame but you’ll feel awful in the end. To be more specific, if you want to be special, like in Rand’s book, you need to be alone. And six years later after I’ve first read Atlas Shrugged, I’ve decided that it is not worth it.
Yes, money is cool. Cool clothes are awesome. Vacations in Paris are very nice to have. Cuban cigars are great (I have one in my bags for two weeks now, haven’t lighted it yet) but real happiness comes from human connection. From genuine human connection, where you are vulnerable and the other party, in this case defined as the opposite sex, usually girlfriend, fiance or wife is vulnerable too.
It comes when you give love and you receive love and you don’t take the strategic game of chess in your personal life. I admit it, in business, it pays to be a sociopath. Risk is rewarded, bold moves are rewarded and cold rational beings are rewarded. So I have nothing against it.
But being a sociopathic father … or husband … or brother … or close friend … will hurt both the person next to you and yourself. Why?
Because it is not a zero sum game anymore. Business and most competitive fields are zero sum games. This can be easily defined as “We are two. There is only one seat. One will win and one will lose”. This can be translated in market share, clients, stock value and so on.
And this is reality. Yes, most of business is a zero sum game, no matter if you accept it or not. But human relationships are not. While in an abstract manner they can be (one being being wanted by several actors, therefore one winning and several losing), it generally is not.
And even if there are laws of economics governing everything (for example, offer and demand in romantic – sexual setting) this doesn’t mean that everything should be reduced to these laws. It would lead to a nihilistic point of view and while it is accurate, it is also very depressing.
And if something is accurate or truthful, this doesn’t mean that it is also good for you. If a lie serves you better, living in a lie, than in the truth, then go for the lie. The end goal is happiness, not some absolute search for the truth. You’re not a philosopher and your life is not some book on metaphysics.
I’ve observed this especially when it come about religion. I was talking with this very intelligent and attractive member of the opposite sex about the need for God. I am an atheist, she is not.
She admitted it that even if she can’t prove the existence of a God and I may be very well right, this doesn’t mean that she wants to give up on the belief. The belief brings her comfort and inner peace and the downside is limited to non-existent. In other words, she has more to gain from this than to lose.
And while zealots may say that this is brainwashing or cowardice, I find it very interesting. She admits this, she doesn’t base her belief on any irrational point of view but rather, just prefers to believe because it is easier for her and it brings her more rewards than if she would not.
If you think about it, this is 100% logical and in some way, very, very mature.
So since then I’ve started to try to implement this belief too. It is nice to see the world in terms of absolutes, of A and -A, of 1 and 0, but either our mental capacity is too limited or the world comes in many shades of grey, not absolute. Good doesn’t always win, bad doesn’t always get punished. Love doesn’t always win and strong people sometimes do suffer. But the fact that there is a negative out there, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t also a positive.
This was Rand’s flaw – her fixed views on everything. They made sense and they were heroic in nature but it was like saying that there are only two geometrical shapes in this world, squares and circles. To miss everything else, from diamonds to triangles. To say that there is only absolute good and only absolute evil and to miss the 500 shades of grey between them.
I think that you really mature when you realize this – when you stop looking for perfection, for white or black. When you realize that nobody is perfect, everyone is flawed in a way but in their flawless, they are perfect. When you realize that life is what it is and it will give you both good and bad things, that there is no such thing as “it should be” but only “it is”.
In an ideal world, things would go in a different manner and that manner would be our expectations. But that’s in a different world. Our expectations don’t really influence reality and just because you think of a thing to be good or bad, this doesn’t make it so.
And to be honest, there is no real indicator of what is good or bad. Intentions are not an indicator since results matter. And results are circumstantial, what is good for you may be bad for me. Character traits against, are not good or bad, only serving or not serving a purpose.
So, flexibility my friends, flexibility.