Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Why I stopped reading Ayn Rand

Some books change your life . . .
On hindsight you discover that the book has changed you for worse. But while reading the book, one doesn't realise that the change has already begun within unbeknown to you.

After lofty recommendations from friends, teachers and local librarian, I set my hands on my first Ayn Rand book - The Fountainhead. Like everyone who raves and rants about the book, I had my share as well. Howard Roark was the epitome of everything ambitious, passionate and superior grit. I was floating in the cloud of pride that unites Ayn Rand readers, more so Howard Roark admirers. Well, I starved for more of Rand's books - I started reading Atlas Shrugged. Same sentiments followed. I was glued and had the potential of becoming a Rand fanatic - her arguments became mine. She possessed my thinking and gradually the 'I' in me became rather pronounced.



I continued reading Rand and slowly I started reading her philosophy of life. Two years passed by. I was haughty. In 2009, I started reading We the Living. As the book progressed, I was getting restive. Selfishness was romanticised and individualism was the only thing that mattered to Rand. Parallely, I also started reading the biography of Ayn Rand. The more pages I completed in We the Living, the more I started becoming disillusioned by the characters' selfish demeanour especially the character of Kira Argounova.

Kira's high form of individualism was appalling. I realise that the self is important but not to the extent of manipulating the lives of others. Tenderness and compassion was something that the characters never showed and if they did display those emotions, it was as a tool to achieve something. I found that sinister and cruel. Perhaps the conditions in my life at that point of time swerved my judgment of Ayn Rand. But that was it. I knew that if I read her further, I would grow to be a cold and heartless woman whose only ambition in life was being superior in reason and self. I stopped reading Rand. And to this day, haven't ventured anywhere near her books.

If Rand read this post, she would have called me a chicken and a pretender but my decision wouldn't have changed.

Now, if you think that this is too much for a book - I would say, 'Don't undermine the power of a book,' for you don't know how it will alter your perceptions and perspectives.

And to all those Ayn Rand lovers and followers, no offense. You are welcome to challenge me in the comments' section. Hope to meet you there.

Have you stopped reading any author simply for the reason that the toxicity was smothering you? I will be glad to hear your stories.

Image 1: Internet

45 comments:

  1. I am one of the persons who feels, there is a connection between every individual connected by the string called selfishness. Whatever we speak apart from "I" and "My Belongings" are just an imitated and extended form of one's ego. I like to teach kids cause, i feel satisfied in a way that is. An Activated Selfishness can lead for a change. Change begins with one's self and extend to others. That's what Ayn Rand advocated.

    Every time, i read about Howard Roark and John Galt i still get goosebumps. A perfect person i guess :)

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    1. Vijay, this was an observation that I made after reading some of her popular works. I'm glad that you liked and enjoyed Rand.

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  2. We The People was the first Rand Book I read... it has somehow put me off the others. I read books to feel good. There's enough misery in the world without having to add to it! :)

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  3. According to Ayn Rand, "Collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group - whether to a race, class or state does not matter. Collectivism holds that man must be chained to collective action and collective thought for the sake of what is called 'the common good'."

    John Sanford writes in his work The Kingdom Within, “By instinct, man is a group animal. For hundreds of thousands of years he has existed through the group, and the individual has found his identity and meaning by virtue of his inclusion in the tribe, clan, or nation. But the Kingdom of God calls us to go beyond this ancient herd instinct and to establish an individual consciousness of oneself and of God. Being a disciple means following the call in the individual way, and inevitably this will mean the separating out of oneself from the collective psychology of the group.”

    I guess you could take the individualist philosophy as selfishness, but I never did. It all depends on what degree to which you take it.

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    1. Instead of the word, 'group,' I would prefer 'community' and believe that as a community one can do many things. And a community can also be a collective of a group of people who work together and have one common goal.

      Debra, for me, selfishness and individualism are two different things. While all of us possess some degree of selfishness, individualism is an extreme choice that one makes. Rand did that - coercing and extreme form of individualism.

      Thanks for the comment, Debra.

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  4. I feel Ayn Rand created characters which were not very realistic and one cannot find a Roark in our everyday life. I have read both Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead a long time back but found the characters very rigid in their approach. Such characters put me off..I like human characters who mirror the society.

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    1. Yes, her characters were quite ambitious and unrealistic and very complex -- quite exciting then but on hindsight, not all that appealing.

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  5. Hi, Susan Deborah! ~

    You're right about the power books and other media have on our minds. They should be chosen carefully.

    There are certain 'writers', including bloggers and Face-bookers, who I actively avoid to protect my mind from them.

    I enjoy Ayn Rand's work. My understanding of many ideas from Atlas Shrugged have changed my life for the better.

    Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post!

    PS I like Debra's comment about Ayn Rand ;-)

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    1. Quite right, media can influence our thoughts, ideas and decisions to a greater extent than we can imagine. Glad that Rand's books have changed your life. You should write sometime about her in your blog.

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  6. hmmmmmmmmmm well frankly i have not read anyone for ages so cant say anything and this author i have not even read once

    Bikram's

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  7. i agree that books have that power...its the same reason i dont watch some tv shows or movies....individualism carried to the extreme is selfishness as well...

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    1. Quite right, Brian.

      Hope the cheer of the season has found place in your hearts and home.

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  8. Hah...Ayn Rand...what a beautiful and mesmerising writer !!! I am still a great fan of her writing; I've just stopped reading her books and stopped following her principles !!!

    It was great during my teenage and pre-marriage years to be like that...but when there is family around me, there is love that surrounds me, I fail to be selfish or probably altruistic !!!

    But I want my daughter to read the book and be impressed with the views...I want to know her reaction now and then later after some years on the book !!!

    Susan, loved the first post I landed on !!! :)

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    1. Thanks for coming by, Uma and welcome to the Meanderings.

      I think even I would want my children to read her books and come to a conclusion themselves. I wouldn't stop anyone from reading her.

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  9. I was hooked to Fountain Head and Atlas Shrugged...but, that is where the magic ended. These books really touched me and gave me insight to a part of human behaviour I could identify with.

    As a reader, we are influenced by what we read.
    I read Osho, but I am not a philosopher nor do I advocate it. For the life of me, I cannot sit for 5 minutes and meditate. Yet, I love his philosophy.
    I like Paulo Coelho, and I do not like all the books I read of his.

    I take in what I like, and inculcate only so much which makes me feel better, and till date I have not gone overboard.

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    1. I have read Osho as well. I like his teaching in parts.

      I find that sometimes it's not what we choose to take in goes in, everything is digested and reveals itself in an appropriate time. While reading Rand, I was extremely thrilled and her excellent crafting of characters left me amazed but as mentioned, on hindsight the sentiments of Rand seeps out of the book and finds way into our psyche. I reckon that many like and admire her because she brings out the best from within them and leads one to think that the self is the supreme being and the power one possesses helps them throughout. This power of self is highly exalted by her but I tend to think that the self has limitations which can be helped only by the community and the sacred.

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  10. I have read Fountanhead and a couple of more books of Ayn Rand. Liked Fountainhead. Some books have influenced me but have not taken me over or changed my attitude.

    Selfish nature cannot be changed in us, Susan. The percentage might vary!

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  11. I tried reading Hitler's Mein Kampf, just for the sake of understanding what thoughts shaped his views. But it was so boringly written, I didn't go beyond the first 100 pages.

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    1. A completely different view!

      Glad to see you, Vinay. Hope you're well.

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  12. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I'm sure may Rand fans will do just that.. me, I am still a lover of her books and not a day goes by that I don't wish I could be Dagny Taggart for a day.

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  13. I don't think you could ever grow to be a cold and heartless woman. You've read more than one author and each one brings something different to your perspective. I think you stopped reading her because her perspective and yours are so opposed. I'm glad for that.

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    1. How nicely framed, Myrna. I always like how you see me - It helps me see me better. Thank God for you. Love.

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  14. Hi Susan:
    Never read Rand and wasn't all that familiar with her until the 2012 U.S Presidential Elections. She became political fodder for the Republican Party. I really had no idea what her philosophy was until her work and her belief system came to the fore during 2012. I can certainly understand your feelings.

    As for whether I've put down a book because of the author's worldview. Can't say that I have. Now whether the book holds my interest is another matter. I typically give a bout about 50 to 100 pages. If I can't find something in that number of pages I move on. There is so much out there to read. Why struggle with something that is holding my interest?
    --
    Chris

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    1. Chris, Rand held my interest then and hence this post. I have read all her popular works and was besought with them. The reflection I have posted are thoughts on hindsight. You should read her works.

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  15. why I stopped Ayn Rand is because she sounds extreme at times but I don't think she is selfish. For the herd mentality that is so prevalent, she might do some good.

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    1. Maybe she isn't selfish but her characters are extremely individualistic and cold.

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  16. I still remember Dominique, she was some character...I found their whole relationship disturbing to say the least. Never been a fan of her since this book, I know people were praising it to the skies... and I wanted to know what it was about, but it didn't rub off on me. And yes, to answer your last question, Stephen King... after reading his 'Apt Pupil', I went into depression for a week. It was that sickening, a kid torturing puppies and kittens and slowly moving on to killing winos.

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    1. When everyone praises an author to the skies and you don't, we are not looked upon kindly. The comments here reveal that we are in the minority. To each her own :)

      Books are powerful and I cannot agree when someone says that one should take in what one wants. It is beyond us.

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  17. an interesting take. i usually read books independent of the authors' personal lives. there's a difference between individualism and selfishness. I feel Ayn Rand takes a stance, however controversial it maybe. Her characters are very interesting - we shud read them atleast once to get different worldviews and then make a personal choice, like you have done.

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    1. Ah, no. The lives become interesting after we've done away with the books and the characters in them. And any work cannot be separated from the author.

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  18. I tried reading Atlas Shrugged. Really, I did. But, the coldness of the characters and the absolute absence of the holy in life, put my brakes on fast.
    While I advocate the love of independence and admire those who build businesses, there has to be some level of compassion and empathy in the mix. Rand just couldn't seem to see the gray in the black and white.
    Very thoughtful post!

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    1. Thanks for coming by, dear Martha. I find that you and I are in the minority on this topic. I completely agree with what you have to say inspite of me having liked the books while at it.

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  19. I liked the first 650 pages of Atlas Shrugged. Then came John Galt. I wonder if anyone can be more impractical than him. In other words, can anyone be more impractical than the author who created this character?

    Ayn Rand was clearly dictating terms to the reader and trying to influence the reader, just like religious heads try to do. You win over people by logic and reasoning, not by influencing them and coercing them (irrespective of whether sweet or stern measures are adopted).

    Destination Infinity

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    1. Well, I didn't think then that later these books would influence me. You were clever that way.

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  20. Fascinating post! I have not read Ayn Rand, but I definitely feel one can be heavily influenced by the things they read, watch, and hear. Stories are how we learn! We have to be careful who we allow to intoxicate us with their opinions and ideas. :)

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    1. Quite right. We don't even realise that we've been affected until an opportune moment arrives.

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  21. Those lines just hammer! TANG. Like that -

    Kira's high form of individualism was appalling. I realise that the self is important but not to the extent of manipulating the lives of others. Tenderness and compassion was something that the characters never showed and if they did display those emotions, it was as a tool to achieve something. I found that sinister and cruel. Perhaps the conditions in my life at that point of time swerved my judgment of Ayn Rand. But that was it. I knew that if I read her further, I would grow to be a cold and heartless woman whose only ambition in life was being superior in reason and self.//

    Amazing. I know I loved The Fountain Head actually it gave me the jeebies that I have taken a wrong decision in my life and blahs but yea, life is where people make the best of available things and not ALWAYS ONLY think of being THe bEST instead.

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    1. Three years after, I see your comment and rely. Thanks Karpagam for stopping by. You are right - One is fascinated by Fountainhead and then slowly you realise that you are being brainwashed.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  22. Read her philosophy: who needs it and you'll delete this post ! Really , I'm not joking !

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    1. I have come to a similar realization regarding Ayn Rand . The Fountainhead had blown away my mind and Howard Roark began implicitly forming a part of my personality. However , the better part of me later realized that being like Howard Roark is a loveless ,cold and egotistic life although it is also renounced of much of bullshit society imbibes in you. I still today have great respect to the amount of clarity and amazing insight Ayn Rand provides , especially in ripping apart the hypocrisy of the society and its deeper consequences. However , somehow the solution she provides ,is missing something. Perhaps , love.

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    2. Hrishikesh, yes, perhaps love is what is found wanting. It was a pleasure to read your thoughts and thanks for stopping by to comment and ponder.

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