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Objectivism

The Good Life

An Unlikely Friendship
by Kathryn S

I read Atlas Shrugged the summer before my senior year of high school.  It was an amazing experience; everything falling into place, everything so well defined.  I loved that book so much that I became intrigued with Objectivism.  I studied Rand’s philosophy extensively; SOLO became a haven of learning for a new convert like me.  I also read The Fountainhead, absorbed by her literary style.  The more I discovered about Objectivism, the more I realized how great of a life philosophy it really was; everything just made sense.  Before I had discovered Ayn Rand, I had been somewhat apathetic towards philosophy and politics, but my newfound interest in Objectivism changed all that.  Soon I was not only interested in these areas, but well read and well informed enough to support opinions of my own.  I was an Objectivist and very proud to declare it.
           
I first met Billy during the fall of my senior year.  We met through marching band; we both played the flute and were positioned next to one another in adjacent squads.  Tall, with curly hair dyed electric blue at the tips and wearing spiked bracelets and earrings, he was a hard person to miss.  One day as we were preparing for the Homecoming Parade performance I overheard him discussing politics with another guy, and I, with my newfound interest in political matters, sprung into the conversation.  We introduced ourselves, and he seemed like a nice, intelligent guy.  The parade was cancelled due to rain, but we met again at the football game that evening and discussed everything from politics to economics to metaphysics, sitting on the sidelines of the football field in the rain.

We talked all the time during marching band trips and performances.  The more we talked the more we found we had in common; beyond both playing the flute, we both loved great literature and classical music, and we both loved camping and exploring the outdoors.  We joked that we could be long lost siblings and became fast friends.

In spite of our similar interests, our values differed greatly.  Through our political discussions, I soon discovered that Billy was a self-proclaimed Communist.  I wasn’t shocked, but rather intrigued; many long debates were sparked over socialism versus capitalism.  In addition, he was a vehement Christian while I was happily atheist, and he refused the existence of an objective reality.  Our differing opinions made our discussions long and interesting; we took great delight in our debates, and we often earned strange looks from people overhearing our conversations. 

In our debates, I used every tactic and allegory I could find to destroy his obviously flawed beliefs.  His resolve against my Objectivist truths, however, remained unyielding, even in the face of his swiftly failing positions.  It bewildered me how he could remain absorbed in his faulty beliefs even when faced with the obvious truth.  However, we continued our debates and discussions, and I was happy just to express my opinions, even if he didn’t take them to heart.

In the winter our school hosted a motivational speaker and had all the students attend an assembly where he talked about “finding the good in others” and “being true to yourself.”  Most students, of course, paid no attention to him, but out of boredom I listened to his speech.  When it came time to ask questions at the end, Billy’s hand shot right up.  He was picked by the speaker immediately (probably, I thought, because of his strange sense of style.)  “If you help someone because you want to, because you like it,” he asked, “is that really being truly good?  Isn’t the only way to truly help someone is to help them for no benefit to yourself, but rather only for the reason that it is the right thing to do?”  The speaker was dumbfounded.  I was shocked; he sounded exactly like Toohey!  Surely he was only playing devil’s advocate, not really believing what he was saying! 

I approached him after the assembly to ask him about this disturbing impression.  To my horror, he calmly replied that he truly believed in what he had said and went on to elaborate.  I was completely taken aback; his statement was straight out of one of Rand’s novels, exemplifying the negation of her philosophy!  My good friend was not simply disillusioned; he was evil!  Dazed, I quickly excused myself, telling him quietly that I had some things to think about before we talked again.

I tossed and turned over this issue for days.  Not only was he a Communist, Christian, and skeptic, but he embodied everything that my Objectivist values told me to be immoral!  Our friendship seemed to be as if Toohey and Roark had been best pals: obviously a contradiction and impossibility.  How could I possibly stay friends with him and not deny every value which I stood for?  If we are judged by the company we keep, would I, in maintaining our friendship, be labeled a supporter of everything I stood against?  For a time, I seriously considered breaking our friendship completely. 

However, the more I thought about my dilemma, the more I realized that our friendship didn’t contradict my Objectivist values, but rather upheld them even more.  Spending time with Billy had not made me loose my truths and beliefs; through our debates and discussions, I had been forced to strongly support my positions, solidifying my ideas in ways that may not have been possible had he not questioned them in the first place.  I had never been friends with Billy to “convert” him to Objectivism for his own good, or because I pitied his misbegotten notions of Communism and skepticism; I was his friend because I enjoyed our time together, because, while we had opposing values, we shared common interests.  I was his friend because I liked him and wanted to be his friend, and for no other reasons.  I saw our friendship in a different light; although he opposed my Objectivist values, I could still be friends with him for Objectivist reasons without demoralizing my own values.

The next time I saw Billy, we continued our debates and conversations as usual.  I don’t think he knows that I once considered telling him that I never wanted to see him again.  We're great friends to this day.  Of course, we disagree a lot and both think the other is misguided, but we like each other and enjoy each other's company; that's what really matters.  I’m glad that I didn’t throw away our friendship for a conceited, unrealistc ideal.  I realize now that I am not Roark; I am not perfect, and I am not a martyr of truth.  I know now that I can both be an Objectivist and a friend and not be a contradiction.   
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