Rebirth of Reason

The Good Life

Stylized Life
by Glenn Lamont

My favorite character of Ayn Rand's novels is Francisco d'Anconia.

Frisco is introduced in the early stages of 'Atlas Shrugged' as, ostensibly, an irresponsible, worthless playboy – a man who's name "stood on cards attached to flowers in the boudoirs of woman scattered through three continents." The heroine, Dagny Taggart, is disgusted by what he seems to have become, even though we learn that they had a love affair in their youth. Later we discover that the rumors and scandal surrounding Francisco are false, that the "failed" business ventures were deliberately orchestrated to punish those who sought to claim on his ability, and he is revealed to be the man of virtue he truly is. But as worthless playboy or Objectivist hero, readers are struck by two qualities that Francisco maintains throughout – a sense of life and a sense of style.

In her 'Atlas Shrugged' notes dated June 27, 1946, Ayn Rand writes that to Francisco, John Galt is "the only man who represents a challenge and a stimulant – almost the "proper kind" of audience worthy of stunning for the sheer joy and color of life." Now, we know that Francisco is no social metaphysician. His view of the world and his judgments are not dependent on others. Yet it's interesting to note that he considers "stunning an audience" a value. Objectivists could learn a lot from Frisco.

Francisco is unique amongst the characters of 'Atlas Shrugged.' He is the only one of Galt's chosen where particular attention is given to his life separate and apart from his work. He is a man who has chosen to make his life extraordinary - extraordinary not only by his accomplishments, but also by his approach to life. Objectivism provides you with the tools to make your life extraordinary, to make your life like the pages of an Ayn Rand novel. I call this living a stylized life.

Style is the component in esthetics that represents selectively focused essential characteristics. Style differentiates art from reality, the inspirational from the mundane. This is not to say that the idea of a stylized life means divorcing life from reality. On the contrary, it means identifying the essentials of life, what's important about life, and making them your focus. It means identifying goals and planning to achieve them. It means aspiring not simply to be good, but to be great. It means looking to your heroes, real or fictional, and realizing you too can be like them. Not a life of fiction, but a life like fiction.

What are the essentials of life? Take this scene from 'Atlas Shrugged' (p. 108) as an example:

"It was spring and [Francisco and Dagny] stood together on the roof terrace of a restaurant, the light silk of her evening gown blowing in the wind against his tall figure in formal black clothes. They looked at the city. In the dining room behind them, the sounds of the music were a concert etude by Richard Halley…"

This is what life is all about; a sublime, romantic moment with a partner - a moment that makes you glad you're alive. A stylized life means making what might be exceptional for others, the everyday for you. It's the clinching of a major deal, it's the well-earned vacation on an idyllic, tropical island, it's the win in your chosen sport, it's the moment when the girl you've admired from afar agrees to go out with you, it's the A+ you achieve on your paper, it's the near-perfect piano recital by your son, it's a victorious blow for freedom. The confrontation with the irrational boss, the dismay of another liberty-crushing piece of legislation; these are the non-essential, the non-significant.

A stylized life means rejecting the tendency towards asceticism and a hermit-like existence common amongst Objectivists. It means greeting the world with a laugh and a handshake, not a grumble and a glower. It means being a crusader for reason, but have fun doing it, not being a martyr for reason and being miserable. It means eschewing a style/function dichotomy to personal material property: wear the fashionable clothes, savor the exotic food, drive the fancy car. It means not shunning the world, but stunning the world with concrete results, both spiritual and material, of what Objectivism has brought to your life. Not for the sake of the world, but, in Ayn Rand's words, "for the sheer joy and color of life" – your life.

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