Ayn Rand: The Unknown Ideal Woman
Ayn Rand has a solid base but still too few know who she was.
Two morally perfect men came out of the mind of Ayn Rand. From her two most popular novels, The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), Howard Roark and John Galt, respectively, exemplify the grandeur of what it means to be an absolutely ethical person. Their genius may surpass the common man, but everyone can relate to their ironclad virtues. All of which Miss Rand made possible.
While she can be looked at as the ultimate feminist, such a moniker would do no real justice. Miss Rand was a woman in body but a man in spirit. This is not to say that she possessed a psychological split in her gender identity. It simply means that she was an American hero who championed man and men in her quest for displaying to the world that happiness and wonderment are possible in life, on this earth, as individuals.
How did this woman affect my life? She commanded my scattered ideas and arranged them into a harmonious collection of thought. Before I delved into her beautiful world, I stood as a committed mystic and tribalist. I thought that my mortal soul had to be saved and that people of the darker nation possessed greater weight over all other races. Once I immersed myself in the literature, saw documentaries like Ayn Rand:A Sense of Life (1997) and allowed myself to become a young warrior both in matter and in spirit, I knew that Ayn Rand would forever be a fixture in my existence.
Where all of Ayn Rand's ideas originated for me
I started off with non-fiction first. I perused the library shelves and came upon a book with a striking, even sexy title: The Virtue of Selfishness (1964). I devoured its pages like a lion fresh from the hunt and ready to chow down on an antelope. Ideas flew at me at a fast clip. Words like “collectivism” “egoism” “altruism” and “self-interest” all shaded new sketches on the tablet of my mind. I was hooked. I sought out various works of fiction written by Ayn Rand but chose her shortest book of this sort, Anthem. This novella further solidified my taste for being a complete individual. But the sad thing is that I stood in the proverbial closet not admitting to my atheism, selfishness, or individualism to anyone in my family or elsewhere.
Like a splintered piece of wood, I had broken into two factions: my mind held onto Rand’s thoughts while my body went through the motions of going to church and remaining involved in school programs that called for multiculturalism and diversity for its own sake. In my head, I knew that Ayn Rand was right and that her ideas blasted away all of the nonsense that had been propagated in my mind for seventeen years.
Like the son that she never had, I considered myself a covert crusader for my philosophical mother. Miss Rand brought out the truth and painted a portrait of the entirety of human activity that has led to suffering, anxiety, and pain. She meant that the evils of mysticism, collectivism, and altruism spelled the disease infecting the minds of the people of earth. She would provide the cure for those maladies in reason, individualism, and capitalism. As I became a United States Marine, I saw firsthand the explicit nature of those aforementioned vicious ideals. In Boot Camp, the banishment of singular pronouns made me feel like I was living in a chapter of Anthem. When I got to Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) School, I noticed that many faiths existed in green and desert colored camouflage. And the complete selflessness and sacrifice that so many had held as the moral standard became clear in the Fleet Marine Force. So, what did I do? I shrugged.
The breaking point which changed my entire course
When a superior non commissioned officer had grown too oppressive I pushed back using whatever I could without physically harming him. I ripped up magazines. I shouted at him. All of this took place on the grounds of a United States Naval clinic in Yuma, Arizona. Before I knew it, I would be administered an injection that would sedate me. I ended up in another state 176 miles away. At this hospital in San Diego, California I would get to know the patients while taking prescribed drugs for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
In between being incapacitated and trying to maintain composure during waking hours, I encountered a sailor. We talked for a while and Miss Rand's name came up in the conversation. He scampered back to his room. Now, he happened to possess a red and white book.
“It’s ‘The Fountain Pen’.”
“You mean The Fountainhead,” I said.
“Oh, yes. Well it’s yours, now.”
I clutched the 700+ page book like a precious metal. Or like it was a piece of steel ready to be fitted into a skyscraper. In the three months that I stayed in that facility, I completed the book. Roark is larger than life and I could never match his architectural brilliance, but I related to him on a level that I think Miss Rand intended. He is so stone cold honest. Not to be confused with brutality. Only dishonesty can be brutal. His integrity, his backbone speak wonderfully because of Miss Rand’s extraordinary diction. She places him in situation after situation where he is tested by those who worship mediocrity and “classic” architecture. Roark’s buildings are not classical or modern. They’re just his buildings. I admired Ayn Rand for that. She could’ve just written him as a nonconformist misfit who just wanted to challenge the status quo. While he does not conform and his work definitely goes against convention, he is not fashionable or showy but determined and ego-driven.
For Miss Rand to include this in her writings, it drove my mind to succeed at whatever endeavor I pursued. At this time I was twenty-years-old. At twenty years of age, Miss Rand embarked on her voyage to America and reached New York City a few weeks later and turned twenty-one in the process. But what she held in her mind was an inferno of creative energy that would sustain her throughout her life in the United States. While I may have been on lock down in a psychiatric ward, I burned through the pages of The Fountainhead. Each passage provided me the fuel to one day be released from these walls and carve out a life for which Roark would tip his hat to me.
A new outlook on life
So, I was discharged from the Marine Corps in the spring of 2009. With my battered novel in tow, I made my way back home to Newark, Delaware. There, I went on a tear, using my funds from my work at a Starbucks and my disability pay from the military to buy as many Ayn Rand books as I could. I slashed through both of the remaining fiction, We the Living (1936) and of course Atlas. The former is depressing, and to someone with bipolar disorder, it’s a task to get through it. If Miss Rand had not imbued the book with such intrigue, passion, and control, I would’ve never finished it. But I did. Miss Rand conveys the wrenching, harsh reality of an oppressive state in startling, sparkling language. After reading her first effort, I then reached for her magnum opus...Atlas Shrugged. I rented CDs from the library and used the book that I bought in California to aid me on Miss Rand’s wondrous journey. The greatest take away that I got from reading the novel was that I relate most with Hank Rearden. Again, he is out of my league as far as business geniuses go but his family life mirrored mine, if not completely. His mother, wife, and brother are monsters. My family are real life, flesh and blood human beings, not projections to signify the flaws and contrast the virtues of Rearden. The tenor of their disdain for Rearden and his work was like a faint echo of the people in my own life who decried Miss Rand. While I love my real life family, there will forever be a rift between them and me because of Miss Rand’s shining oeuvre.
I took to the Internet and watched every interview available on YouTube that featured Miss Rand. Her quiet grace and searing intellect motivated me to be as exact and precise in my words as her. I’m still not quite there, but I’m working on it. This woman was a once in a millennium genius who revolutionized two fields: literature and philosophy. I continued to study this mastermind’s work, reading most of her nonfiction and seeking out ways to improve myself. I credit Ayn Rand for not opening my eyes but averting my attention to focus on my own selfish adventures. She aided me in hours of supreme discomfort and mania. In times of depression, her words lifted me up by impelling me to not “let [my] fire go out spark by irreplaceable spark.”
What I got from Ayn Rand in the culture
Though never given her absolute due in the academic circles and maligned by critics on the left and the right, Miss Rand’s influence on me never wavered. When I was confused about a chapter, couldn’t grasp a radical idea, or failed to comprehend the essence of a sentence, I never blamed Miss Rand. I would dig deep and enlist dictionaries and encyclopedias to aid in my hour of misunderstanding. But those times rarely occurred. I delved into what Miss Rand had to say and savored the delicious language that she offered.
After more visits in several psychiatric centers, I used Miss Rand’s words to keep me based in reality. Whenever I felt that I was the only one in the world that felt like heroes had to be killed or commit suicide before they would be devoured by their lesser enemies, I thought of Dominique Francon from The Fountainhead. If I considered the idea of being the only one who knew that there remained a radical alternative to conventional ideals, I wondered about Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged. These women that Miss Rand invented exhibit traits that I would love to see in a wife. Not only are they strong but they’re visible in a way that is extraordinary and extremely rare in the entire canon of world literature. Miss Rand wanted to craft female characters who showed their brashness, brains, beauty and shunned writing about women who become doormats for the male characters to trample. Rather, Miss Rand constructed her women to “man up” while still keeping and conveying their feminine mystique.
After my final stay at a mental institution, I continued my quest for meaning. I read Fountainhead and Atlas three times a piece and read Anthem at least twenty times (with the aid of an audiobook app). I have traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Newport Beach, California, and Cleveland, Ohio to attend OCONs or Objectivist Conferences (so far). What I have taken from these excursions is the continuous search for meaning and the richness to be found among other Objectivists who share my values. Miss Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism keeps me sane. Truly. Sure, I have a pharmacy’s worth of antipsychotic prescription drugs that regulate the chemicals in my brain. But it is the philosophy that keeps my mind focused on making myself into a better person. At times when I see things or hear things that other people don’t detect, I recall Miss Rand’s Objectivism.
Ayn Rand, rationality, and me
The philosophy affords me the opportunity to see reality and only reality. As I prepare to go to other OCONs, I remind myself what got me to those locales. It was the reason, purpose, and self-esteem that necessitated my will to discover, to seek out, to learn. As a current community college dropout, a Marine, and a bipolar out patient, I needed all the help I could get. Miss Rand sculpted heroes that felt tangible and real once they popped off of the page. It seemed like they lifted right up from the text and shook my hand. I refused to regard these as bipolar episodes. I recognized that Miss Rand’s writing is so profound and engrossing that it would mean that I would be able to face the real world, ironically, because of fictitious characters. All of Miss Rand’s works deal with the efficacy of reason. She holds up a banner for rationality on each page of her collection of stories and essays. It is this fervor for the mind and the human capacity to think that Ayn Rand had included in everything that she said or wrote.
The radiant glow that I felt after accomplishing my goal imparting to girlfriends, fellow Marines, and anyone who would listen to the deep lessons espoused by Miss Rand remains a wonderful feeling. And that’s what great women like Ayn Rand have done for centuries. Some were burned at the stake, crushed with rocks, or faced acid attacks or worse. These ogreish displays only heighten the power of Miss Rand’s art. A student of history, she knew what those women had gone through. She knew just how evil humanity can be. That is why she injected in her work the idea that women can achieve just as much and even more than men.
Miss Rand was a shining example of a lone individualist who sparked the motor of the world in the minds of other individualists. She was alone but not lonely in the long line of women who employed their brains to enhance their lives. My life became all the better with Miss Rand. I shudder to think about what my life would have been like had I not encountered Miss Rand’s work. I would probably be wasting away in a psych ward, zonked out of my mind on pills, and pushed to complete puzzles to pass the time.
Where I am going because of Miss Rand
I could’ve been sent to a state facility where I may have been strapped to a table for twenty three hours out of the day.
All of that conjecture is just that. Because of Ayn Rand, I have a laser focus on achieving my accomplishments. Whether they be small or great, it will be because of Miss Rand that I would’ve known the wonders that this world has in store for me.
I intend to soak up the marrow out of life. I intend to let my voice be heard on Internet platforms and to forever be an ambassador for Miss Rand’s extremist, gorgeous body of work. Ayn Rand just happened to be born and lived the rest of her days as a woman. For her to rise up against the male dominated realms of thought and letters is a testament to her soul which could not be tamed or ruled. Like an oil fire that shoots up into the night sky from a torch, spouting precious inky black stuff amongst the flames, her spirit exploded with creativity, wit, wisdom, grace and verve.
She knew that virtually all of her work would contend with the prevailing thought of the past two thousand years. By standing firm on her word which she said, “and I mean it,” Ayn Rand knew what she was doing. She damned her critics and “excommunicated” former adherents of her work for going against her personally and professionally. Though some would say that she was cold and calculating, the opposite is true. She loved writing. She loved cats. She loved skyscrapers. She loved her husband. She loved life. With a woman so committed to reason and truth, it would appear as though she had no time for emotion. Actually, she regarded emotion as an extremely important part of human life. She just viewed it as the effect, not the cause. Reason ought to be the absolute in every human life. It is what distinguishes us from the animals. But Miss Rand also taught me that it is a matter of choice for one to employ reason. In any moment of a man or woman’s life, he or she can be rational or jettison such a task.
'Throughout all future generations'
For someone with a mental disorder like myself, I am impelled to always be rational lest I crawl into the fetal position on the floor out of depression or lash out at anyone around me in a manic fit. Miss Rand has shown me that even with a psychological condition, I can still attain and keep my values. All of the fears of a being locked away in a musty room hosed down with a disinfectant while vermin scurry about have vanished. I look forward to telling even more people about the earth shattering ideas that Ayn Rand instilled in me.
A woman who will be like Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966) an obvious ally to some and still ignored by others will still hold sway throughout all future generations.