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Post 40

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - 11:47amSanction this postReply
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In May 1966 (my senior year of high school), I read Atlas Shrugged. (It was given to me by my high school band/chorus director.) This book literally changed my life. Unlike many Objectivists, I have only read it once. But once was enough. Rand's ideas and vision electrified me. (Not to mention, it was a helluva story!) I quickly devoured her other novels and plunged on ahead into two of her non-fiction books, For the New Intellectual and The Virtue of Selfishness. My mother hit the ceiling. You'd have thought Rand was advocating baby murdering or Satanism or something. She snorted when I told her I wanted to live my life according to my own values, not hers or Dad's. I can hear her replies to this day: "Why do you need her to tell you that? That's what you already do!" and "Values? That's what you get during the sale at Sears or JCPenneys." For the first time, however, I knew clearly and with certainty that the best thing I could do with my life was to live for my own happiness and to choose and pursue my own highest values. That it was the best course of action, no matter how difficult it might seem or how uncooperative others might be.
For more details on my school years, pre- and post-Atlas Shrugged, see essays posted at:

http://members.aol.com/REBissell/indexmmm.html

Best to everyone,
Roger Bissell




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Post 41

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - 12:46pmSanction this postReply
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For me it was the 1961 Saturday Evening Post article.  If you've read Rand's letters, she wrote the editors with some fairly unserious threats of a libel action.

I note with interest that nobody here is claiming that Objectivism is what he'd always believed and that all Rand taught him was that he wasn't the only one.  Everyone I've met who've said that was a pretentious poseur with no more than the vaguest understanding of Rand's ideas.

Peter




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Post 42

Saturday, August 13, 2005 - 3:11amSanction this postReply
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I was a 16 year old high school kid with a skull full of mush (apologies to Rush Limbaugh), but I was always looking for ways to talk to and get to know girls. One girl in particular--her name was Carol K--regularly hung out in the same area after lunch, and I was constantly looking for an excuse to talk to her.  One day I overheard her expressing a wish to see the latest copy of PLAYBOY because it had an interview she desperately wanted to read.  Well, it just so happened that my father subscribed to PLAYBOY, so I thought perhaps I could help her out.  It was March, 1964.  The interview, of course, was with Ayn Rand.

Carol's father was, oddly ehough, a fan of Ayn Rand, but did not allow PLAYBOY in their home.  It was East Tennessee, the Bible Belt.  If there was such a thing as a puritanical Objectivist, her father was it.   Carol loved Ayn Rand's novels, but knew relatively little about her philosophy.  Frankly, I wanted very much to impress her, so I not only figured a way to sneak that issue of PLAYBOY into school--I READ THE DAMN THING!

My life would never be the same.  I quickly began reading ATLAS SHRUGGED, then THE FOUNTAINHEAD, and then WE, THE LIVING, and then THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS, and everything else I could find with Ayn Rand's name on it. Three months later, I attended a lecture at NBI in New York, and saw Ayn Rand in person for the first time.  

Oh, yeah.  I dated Carol K. a couple of times.  But in a short time I became such a radical that she wanted nothing to do with me.   




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Post 43

Saturday, August 13, 2005 - 5:05pmSanction this postReply
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It was early in 1960.  I had just turned 13.  I was in the second semester of eighth grade.  I was browsing through the library shelves, looking for something interesting to read.  I saw these two THICK books side by side, both written by someone named Rand.  I tended to like thick books.  One of these thick books was called The Fountainhead.  The other was called  Atlas Shrugged.  I took them both down, read the first few pages of each, for some reason decided to try The Fountainhead first.  I loved it.  On the other hand, something made me hesitate before going on to Atlas Shrugged.  Perhaps I sensed that there had been a lot more to The Fountainhead than had been apparent to me in my one reading of the novel.  Perhaps I sensed that I needed to read it again, and think about it.  One thing I knew -- Gail Wynand was one of the most fascinating characters I had ever encountered in a novel.

About a year later, in 1961, I gave Atlas Shrugged a try and bogged down a hundred, fifty pages or so into it.  A year after that, in 1962, at the age of 15, I tried it again and finished it.  I thought it was a brilliant dystopia -- even better than 1984, which I had read, along with Brave New World, the year before, at 14.  I started recommending Atlas to anyone who would listen.  I thought Francisco D'Anconia was the most fascinating character I had ever encountered in a novel.

That summer, I found a new book, Who Is Ayn Rand?, on the shelf at our local public library.  That fall, I met a kid named Gregg Burke, a sophomore at a Catholic school across town (I was now a junior at my blue collar public high school).  Gregg had read all the same books I had, and he had begun subscribing to a new periodical, The Objectivist Newsletter.  He showed me his first issues. Later in that same eventful school year (1962-1963), I was invited by another friend to attend my first NBI lecture.

And so it was. . . .

JR  




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Post 44

Sunday, August 14, 2005 - 6:44pmSanction this postReply
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My discovery of objectivism is a little odd. When I was about 17, I had a habit of buying used books but never reading them. I was an odd guy to say the least. I left highschool in my freshman year, and college 18 months after that, so I  was in a sense, self-educating. If I remember correctly, it was Atlas Shrugged that I had bought first. I ended up giving it away to a friend, who always thanked me for it, but little did I know exactly why. I also bought More's Utopia and Dreiser's The Titan.

Six years later, I was in a bookstore and came across a hardbound copy of the collected "Objectivist Newsletter". I remember this had a relation to Atlas Shrugged, but didn't know why. I bought it, and read it, and realized I could have written it myself. Then I bought the Fountainhead, then Anthem, then Atlas Shrugged, then the Epistomology. At that point my world was turned completely upside down. All the things I thought, all the things I knew to be true, but were always told were wrong, were here in front of me and proven correct by examples. I went through the typical hyper-analytical "Randroid" phase, but then at some point I actually understood the true goals of objectivism was; the convergence of happiness through reason, the sense of life.

I am now in the process of rediscovering objectivism, and its practical applications.




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Post 45

Monday, August 15, 2005 - 1:29amSanction this postReply
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I... finished college. Then what? I didn't have a reason to do anything. I was a nihilist. The only thing that got me out of bed was my word-- I told my father I would build him a barn.

During the day I would build the barn. At night I searched for purpose and the Truth. I read a book that discussed the historicity of the Old Testimate (The Bible Unearthed). Yea, Christianity is bogus. I searched and searched-- no one had a satisfactory answer. I even went to a Unitarian Universalist Church. The ministry was a waste of time, but I did meet some very interesting and kind people. Eventually I found an excellent article by Keith Augustine (full text):
Our activities are worthwhile for their own sake, not because they fulfill some unknowable transcendental purpose.

These considerations show that we must create our own meaning for our lives regardless of whether or not our lives serve some higher purpose. Whether our lives are meaningful to us depends on how we judge them. The absence or presence of greater purpose is as irrelevant as the finality of death. The claim that our lives are 'ultimately' meaningless does not make sense because there is no sense in which they could be meaningful or meaningless outside of how we regard them. Questions about the meaning of life are questions about values. We attribute values to things in life rather than discovering them. There can be no meaning of life outside of the meaning we create for ourselves because the universe is not a sentient being that can attribute values to things.
I agreed with K. Augustine, there is no meaning to my life beyond what I make of it. But then I asked myself, what meaning should I choose, and why? Do I have a reason to choose any meaning?

One day I ran into www.importanceofphilosophy.com, while searching for the reason I disliked faith so much. I consumed the website, agreeing with virtually everything. I wasn't too sure about the authors' thoughts on taxes, it seemed a little extreme. The most important thing I found was (full text):
To every living thing, there is one primary choice, and that is to live or not -- to engage in the action required to further its own life or to engage in action that destroys its own life. The only other alternative is death. Choosing life as your standard of value is a pre-moral choice. It cannot be judged as right or wrong; but once chosen, it is the role of morality to help man to live the best life possible.
I CHOSE TO LIVE! I chose to live. For my own sake, and for my own happiness.

Cheers. : )



Post 46

Sunday, September 18, 2005 - 3:37pmSanction this postReply
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I came at it from an odd direction. 
 
I discovered the Libertarian Party first - it was the 1980 election and while I was about a month or so short of turning 18 (therefore not eligible to vote), I was still deeply political.  I'd identified as Republican early on, working as a youth volunteer for Gerald Ford in 1976 - but never felt totally comfortable with the R's.  Anyhow, I saw a blurb in the paper about a guy named Ed Clark who was coming to town to speak - he was running for President as the candidate of something called the Libertarian Party.  I went to go see him - and in the middle of his speech, I had that famed "light bulb" moment where I wanted to stand on a chair and yell "THAT'S IT!!!"  So, I got involved with the Libertarians, and was introduced to Rand by those folks.




Post 47

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 8:11amSanction this postReply
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Excellent link Dean, thanks!

I first heard of Ran'ds ideas in an intro Philosophy course at UMASS in 1992, although it would take me many more years to understand it and overcome all my previous value judgments.

Ethan




Post 48

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 8:13pmSanction this postReply
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I discovered it in a weird way.  Steve Ditko via Chuck Palahniuk.  The film Fight Club had a profound effect on me(and later the book as well as his other books). The whole issue it pointed out to me is it's very easy to let the things that are important to you slip totally away until they no longer exist. It's tempting to just give up on valuing, but that isn't the answer.

Around this time I'd been getting frustrated with my involvement in music and I began to really re-think why I got into it in the first place.  I got embarrassed when people in high school mercilessly teased me about my ambition to make it in comics, I needed something more "mature" to occupy myself with. It lead me down a lot of different paths, most of which weren't very good ones (satanism, nihilism, neo-odinism).

After reading Palahniuk (and getting some encouragement from Amy) I felt brave enough to start being honest and upfront with myself and everyone else about how much I always loved comics.  I also felt brave enough to start working on them again.

I'd never really appreciated Ditko as much before but I began but his originality and overall approach just enamored me this time around.  I read an article about why and how he had become kind of a recluse in the comic world, due to his "Strange fascination with the philosophy of Ayn Rand."

I was going through a Palahniuk book a night at my job as a truck stop janitor(third shift), so I thought I could handle "Atlas" in a week or two (god I was naive ).

 I almost gave the book up in chapter three. I couldn't figure a lot of things out, there were these selfish jerks who were getting face time and boring pathetic losers who were stating all the things I'd always been taught as moral... And then Francisco showed up.  I was hooked from that point on and I just greedily devoured the book til the finish. It was still kind of a slow process developing into an Objectivist but it was a done deal from the words "See I told you that you didn't want to talk to me."

---Landon




Post 49

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - 8:36pmSanction this postReply
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I often find it delightful to curl up in bed with a nice book on differential geometry. Not weird at all. Right?
Not weird at all.


gw




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Post 50

Saturday, September 24, 2005 - 3:48amSanction this postReply
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It was in the late Winter or early Spring of 1966.  I was in tthe 11th grade.  One of the guys in my honors American history class was also in Young American for Freedom, though I made all the meetings and he made none.  One day, he handed me Anthem and told me not to read the last page until I got to the end of the book.  It was a thin book, so that was easy to do. I was hooked.

I read The Fountainhead and then Atlas Shrugged and found more of her books in the local stores. ( I tried We the Living, but "Petrograd smelled of carbolic acid." sounded a lot like Doestoyevksi. I finally got around to it.  I actually read it twice, a few years apart.  It was not as painful the second time.)  In The Virtue of Selfishness was a card for The Objectivist or The Objectivist Newsletter.  In either case, I began buying back issues. 

In September 1966, I signed up for the Basic Principles of Objectivism lectures.  (Nathaniel Branden delivered the opening presentation.)  I still have my hard cover first edition of Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal.

The intellectual stuff was pretty easy.  It was just another set of arguments.  Our family was not religious, and obviously we were conservative.  So, there was not much resistance to my teenage rebellion against not much since no one in the house would disagree with me. 

But, you see, I had a girl friend...  And she read Athem, The Fountainhead, (and We the Living), and Atlas Shrugged, and then the non-fiction.  And all through that, we learned to take each other's clothes off.  Life was pretty good.  In fact, in January 1967, my mother and brother went to the Bahamas.  I did not go.  Hmmm... choice:  (a)  Go to the Bahamas, which is a lot like Florida or (b) stay here in this 9th floor apartment on the Gold Coast of Cleveland overlooking Lake Erie, Downtown, and the industrial flats and have use of the car and have my girlfriend over every afternoon.... You know, I did not even think it through in those terms.  There was just this instanteous and complete understanding that I needed to be in Cleveland by myself. 

(So, there was this time in the school cafeteria, when I came up the table and Janet said, "Hi, Frisco." and I said, "Hi, Slug." and everyone stopped talking because "slug" was not a word they knew, but it sounded like one they did and they could not believe that I said that to my girlfriend -- in such a cheery way -- and that she smiled back.)




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