FROM BIRTH TO MATURITY

Posted by dwlievert 5 years, 10 months ago to Philosophy
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WDonway: I am profoundly “moved” by your posting. It has motivated me to share the following perspective.

Shortly following my discovery of the world of Rand in 1965, during which time it included a rapidly growing assemblage of fellow “discoverers,” we were greeted with the unimaginable.

Unknown outside her inner circle of close associates, Ayn Rand and her business associate at NBI had, for quite some time, been romantically involved. Rand was to further report that her partner, and her lover as well, had “behaved irrationally” and dishonestly. In addition to other acts she claimed he had done, Nathanial Branden had been deceitful. Subsequently, and in turn, they announced they were severing all dealings with each other, each explaining from their perspective the relevant events.

This bombshell ripped through the Objectivist world as a tornado through a young and growing field of newly-planted wheat. One result of this shocking and sudden disclosure was that virtually all “Objectivists” believed they needed to take sides – with virtually all siding with Ayn.

Branden, in their mind, had obviously betrayed a “sacred” trust. I, on the other hand, though my shock was equally traumatic with that of most Objectivists, felt no desire to take sides. I needed to first transform my bewilderment into understanding. I was, at the time, thanks to both Rand and Branden, “preoccupied” with other far more pressing personal dilemmas.

Another result, at least from my perspective, was that this event, and the fervor with which the desire to come to Ayn’s emotional and sympathetic aid was to manifest itself, served to reveal a debilitating mold that had grown on this fresh crop of minds. I was to conclude that many of these individuals, which at the time I believed were to become an unstoppable Objectivist Renaissance, had instead, become “dogmatic.” This dogmatic “mold” had grown and festered in many of their minds, creating a condition I was later to describe as the shedding of one religion for another.

Fast forward to the present.

I have since met Ayn on one occasion. It was at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston in the seventies. She signed my copy of The Fountainhead. In the two minutes we spoke with each other we shared but perfunctory conversation. She had brought her husband, Frank O’connor, and he sat on the dais behind her, seemingly oblivious to the proceedings. (This appearance by him with her was to later trigger further insights by me.)

I have also met, and spoken at some length, with Nathan. As I briefly cited elsewhere in my introduction to this forum, while Ayn awakened me to life, Nathan awakened me to me. To this day I remain respectful of both of these giants, though with regard to Ayn it is with a reverence arising from gratitude, coupled with an enduring and fascinating admiration.

Perhaps triggering further dialogue, I want to cite two things I told Nathan when I sat and spoke with him at length, in 2008. One is a compliment, the other a personal summary – a lament I suppose, that he took as an unintended criticism.

I told him that had I found myself in the position he had with Ayn at the time in my life when my “soul” represented convoluted facets of a “Keating-like” self-esteem, I doubt I would have survived the situation. In my mind it was remarkable he not only survived but concurrently produced a remarkably valuable body of work, work from which I have benefited greatly.

I further commented that it was truly sad that someone in possession of such a wonderfully powerful mind and volition as Ayn, had found no one whose ability and self-esteem was such that they were volitionally and logically capable of challenging her premises, as she had so powerfully admonished others to do.

He clearly did not like or agree with said comment. His curt response was only, “did you read my book?” I indicated I had, quickly backing off, discussing other less potentially “powerful” issues.

I recount these personal anecdotes because Objectivism, now almost fifty-eight years since the publishing of Atlas Shrugged, has matured. Gone are the dominant adolescent second-hander’s, of the sixties, seventies, and eighties, in which I played my small part, exhibiting behavior seemingly dedicated to condescending pontification, while projecting a smug arrogance. In retrospect I think such early behavior stemmed from a failure to grasp one of Objectivism’s fundamental tenets – the absolutism of Reason. Specifically, that it is the only absolute. All other “absolutes” are contextual. Reason dictates that to be the case.

This fact leads one to understand and appreciate that certainty stops inquiry. When one believes they have THE answer as opposed to AN answer, then such a conclusion demonstrates you have failed to “grasp” (one of Ayn’s favorite words) that all questions remain relevant (contextually), all answers tentative, awaiting potential further insight or precision.

As the political tide (actually the moral tide) turns in our favor, it will have done so because A, despite whatever examples are displayed to the contrary, is still A. Since the early days when “A” was what Rand said it was (by God!), Objectivists have begun to assume responsibility for both proving their case at the same time they live it – consistent with the reality in which they relentlessly find themselves.

Ayn Rand’s vision and ability has precipitated, by some measure, “who” Nathanial Branden, Leonard Peikoff, David Kelly, myself, and all who inhabit this forum have eventually become. David Kelly, for example, has clearly gone on to further fulfill her vision.

In retrospect Frank O’connor became an imaginary edifice of Ayn’s unexamined premises; Nathanial Branden a product of her desires; and, perhaps motivated by immense disappointment, Leonard Peikoff was, through default, plucked by her from otherwise obscurity. In my judgment, while being a bright and “loyal” student of Rand, apparently similar to Nathan in that regard, he was so too unable to return in kind what she had provided to each of them.

I thank you WDonway for your superbly written inspiring reminder of such things, and your tribute to David Kelly.

Dave Walden


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