Friday, April 15, 2011

We Did It!

I remember the first time I read Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. Fort Gordon, GA; I was eighteen years old, waiting for orders to tell me where I would spend my Army tour of duty. It was 1968, November. I had been drafted into the military during the Vietnam era and was away from my family for the first time. I did not know what the future held, but I had two weeks and nothing to do but wait, so I went to a bookstore and bought the paperback version of the novel.

I was already familiar with Rand’s work. She had been recommended to me by a student from Butler University who responded to my question: “Who is the greatest philosopher in history?” His answer: Ayn Rand.

Because of this recommendation, I soon read Rand's book, “The Virtue of Selfishness” which had found a home in my dufflebag along with a notebook that I used to plan my life; a life inspired by the ideas in this book.

In spite of my Catholic upbringing, Ayn Rand had taught me to question everything. My parish priests had tired of me years before and told me to stop asking questions in front of other students.

What struck me about "Atlas Shrugged" is that it contained real ideas, not the mish mash of unintelligibility that I had found with Russell and Hume. I was inspired by the heroic characters that acted in the real world and did things of monumental importance; I liked their courage, their depth of knowledge and their ability to live without guilt and sacrifice. It was a different universe, a universe that said you can accomplish anything if you use your mind; live with integrity and stand on your convictions. It changed my life and started a new path for me, with new values and intellectual foundation. It provided me with a life time worth of moral fuel.

Now that I’ve seen the movie, “Atlas Shrugged Part 1,” I’ve been thinking again about how much the novel changed my life and I’m hoping that many young people will be equally impressed after watching the characters on the screen. Now there is a visual, artistic representation of the story, a circumstance that has not existed until now. The impressive characters are on display, not just on paper, but on the movie screen.

I think we don't yet know the impact of it. I'm sure the haters will hate even more and there will be many who will say the characters are cutouts and that people like that don’t exist. I’ve heard it all my life and it doesn’t phase me. Ayn Rand taught me to question everything, especially those with opinions they can’t support.

Now the average person will be able to judge for him or herself. Now, more people will see into the world of "Atlas Shrugged" and hopefully want to read the full story in the novel. I hope the movie will do for the world what other great movies have done, create its own culture, its own terminology and draw people into a new vision of man as a hero.

I was overwhelmed when I realized that this movie, low budget and flawed as it is, came about in my lifetime, in my world. And I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Dagny tell Rearden, after the successful run of the John Galt line, "We did it." Yes, they did it, they accomplished their vision, their goal. They had succeeded.

These words struck me because, just yesterday, I watched a "youTube" video with photos and music from the movie; the last picture in the video was of Taylor Schilling (Dagny) smiling and holding the wooden slats they use to mark the beginning of a scene, and I thought she must be saying, "We did it." What a coincidence. That's how I felt about the movie: We did it. Atlas Shrugged is now a movie.

I saw the performance with my daughter Dagny and it was touching to hear her name being used on the screen...and represented by an actress who looked and acted like I had always pictured Dagny Taggart. Her strength and perseverance will appeal to young women for generations. Now they know it is possible for a woman to run a railroad. And I’m proud of how hard my daughter works to accomplish her college degrees. I recall, the day she got her Bachelors Degree. She looked at me and said, "Thanks, Dad. You did it." Yes, she did.

At the theater, I noticed a couple walking in; a very old lady, being assisted by a man 20 years her junior...and it occurred to me that she must be in her late nineties, almost decrepit and barely able to walk. I watched her as she slowly inched toward a seat. I wondered what her life had been, why she had insisted on making this effort to see this made me think, in a sense, she represented the late Ayn Rand. So wise, so perceptive, so certain that she is right; so convinced that the world needs a vision of the heroic, so willing to spend some of her last energy to see this movie.

I admired that elderly lady for making such an effort. She is a hero too. She did it...and so did Ayn Rand.

Thanks, Ms. Rand for giving so many the fuel to live an inspired life.

You did it.

1 comment:

  1. I would like to say that I have no obligation to publish comments that are based in nihilism and hate. There is a small minority in this country that thinks its meaningless and uneducated comments are somehow worth reading. They are not.