Friendship, Religion, and Ayn Rand: The Effects of a Simple Quote

August 12, 2008
I would like to announce that I have discovered the only words capable of destroying a friendship, summarizing a philosophy, contradicting a religion and respectfully reconstructing all the ideas of modern government. Ayn Rand, in the year 1947, published the phrase "I'd die for you. But I wouldn't, and couldn't, live for you," in her earth-shattering novel The Fountainhead. The speaking character, Howard Roark, is a contemporary architect who fails to conform to the norms of both the business and social world he lives in. His need to be independent, not only from his government, but from everything and everyone in life, is what drives his every action throughout the roughly twenty years the novel spans. The philosophy behind her writing has become a force to battle our society both socially and morally today.

Everywhere we go it seems we are tied to that one cliche maxim which says our friends, family, and relatively unknown neighbors are what is most important in life, and that to sacrifice for them is the most noble and glorious form of dedication on Earth. Yet to live your life for your loved ones -- or even worse, the public itself -- was one of the worse crimes Ayn Rand could imagine. Never, under any uncertain circumstances, was a man or woman to make a life decision, be it at work or home, based on what any other person thought. If your parents had chosen your career, if you believed whatever you were told, if you measured yourself by another's standards, or let yourself be controlled by anything other than your own judgment, you were less than what mankind could chose to be. No friend should live for another, or they forgo the freedom of choice that keeps us truly independent. The concept is strange and out of place in our culture of "friends forever" and commercialized memorabilia, but it can be successful for those who have a deep enough understanding to use it.

The Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, the teachings of the Bible, Torah, and Koran, all contain a common value that was shaken by Rand's controversial insights. This one moral, captured within the practices of a vast majority of world religions, concerns the duty of men and women to serve one another. Even secularly, we have all been taught that to volunteer your time for another's benefit is what transforms us into the wholesome, flawless image of what we see as a "good person." The Roman Catholic Church, where I have grown up, places an enormous emphasis on ritual and ceremony in our religion. Yet we, arguably the most formal of all Christian faiths, see that "we must try to alleviate immediate needs by giving food to the hungry, clothing to the needy, comfort to the sick and imprisoned, and so on." So how does Ayn Rand's theory clash with this principle? It doesn't have to if you can twist your mind around her basic idea. You see, if you do feel it is your duty to serve the public, it is your duty as a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or -- like the author -- strangely moral atheist. It is not your duty, as a person, to be a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or just all-around good person. No service is required in Ayn Rand's world, and while it is still difficult to comprehend her apparent willingness to let man suffer, it is easy to come to terms with the interpretation that charity and service without volunteering are the moral bonds of slavery.

Ayn Rand is the woman I consider to be the most brilliant author I have ever read. Her beautiful and simple language is used to perfectly depict the most controversial and thought-provoking philosophies with which I have ever come in contact. During her teenage years, she witnessed the rise of a communist Russia. Beginning to develop her first political theories, she fled her now highly detested homeland to become a United States citizen. She never returned. Later she would publish four novels --including two best-sellers-- write three scripts, develop her own philosophy, and be world-renowned for her extreme views. She never expressed an opinion that wasn't her own, and while the those not discussed were ten times more disturbing, I'm sure she would be proud of all the debate and controversy her aforementioned words have caused. There was really nothing she wanted to do more than to make people think. If you can apply the logic behind the seemingly ordinary, Internet-downloaded, friendship-themed quote to a world in which you meet all social and moral expectations, my guess is you have done a great deal of thinking.





Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

goodgollie said...
Dec. 3, 2008 at 7:30 pm
Author's Note:
Please comment I love feedback
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback