An Arthur Dent waiting to happen (beldar) wrote in trubookreviews,
An Arthur Dent waiting to happen

Galt? That’s him over there – why do you ask?

In my audiobook listening I’m about a third through Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” but earlier this year I listened to an abridged version of “Atlas Shrugged” (read by Edward Hermann). Since it is one of those books which has changed people’s lives, it seems appropriate that I should give my impressions of it.

If I had encountered this book earlier in my life, I might have been more inclined to embrace its philosophy wholeheartedly. Instead, I found a lot of it resonating with the libertarianism I have already been cultivating. Fortunately, Rand is an excellent storyteller and she tells a ripping yarn. I can see through what I’ve heard so far in “Fountainhead” (which she wrote earlier) that “Atlas” has her ideas more refined and while the earlier work (so far) more emphasizes the narrative, the latter book brings the philosophy more front-and-center and thus its only flaw (if you want to call it that) is that it becomes a tad preachy.

Still, you put up with the lessons to find out what happens next, as the mid-20th century society of the novel slowly, but with increasing speed, collapses. In this world, socialism to some degree is triumphant worldwide. The United States seems to be the last holdout for capitalism, which falls under more restrictions and government supervision as the story continues. With each problem created by socialism, more socialist measures are taken to fix it, and down the spiral goes. And to help give us a connection to these goings-on, we get to know a cast of interesting characters.

But has it changed me? Perhaps, in small ways, just as all good books have an effect on the reader. I can’t buy it all wholesale, especially as part of my personal creed is to never buy any philosophy wholesale. Another reason is that I can’t embrace the atheism. This may make me weak, but I don’t think so, because I still reserve the right to think for myself – including how I relate to my God, what earthly authorities to trust, and even how far I go on that. I have my reasons, and they mostly come down to moments where I truly grokked the Divine (to borrow a word from another life-changing book). Not saying I have a revelation that puts me above anyone else, but that I think I’ve had *mine* which nobody can take away, and I’m sure that someday somewhere, if you haven’t had it, you will likely have yours.

But as to the sense of self-reliance and not being ashamed of success or property? I can get behind that. In fact, “Atlas” gave me the first use of the term “self-esteem” that didn’t turn my stomach. I frankly can’t stand the way pop psychology has kept throwing that word around for as long as I can remember. In Rand’s view it is earned, and a right no one can take away, to everyone else, it’s given to you because you are too incapable of generating it yourself.

Another thing I liked was this (which I’m quoting from memory, so may be more of a paraphrase):
“There are no contradictions. When you encounter one, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”

Ironically, that sentiment from a militant atheist provides a big help in understanding the Bible.

(p.s. The subject line refers to the phrase “Who is John Galt?” which pervades the book.)
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