On Independence

1996-02-03

I think that very few people really understand Objectivism in the sense of living the philosophy for living on earth. Your typical Objectivist may know all the arguments and premises and conclusions, but the philosophy is not something that he has integrated into his life. I have my theories as to why this is the case. Fundamentally, the problem is that one is converted to Objectivism. Well, this is not necessarily a problem (you have to be convinced somehow), but there does exist something that I call the conversion experience. This is why Objectivists always ask each other "How did you find out about Ayn Rand?" -- there is a fascination with the conversion experience. And the reason for the fascination is that "conversion day" is really your birthday -- the day you become an Objectivist. Nothing that came before really matters. Once I am converted, I must remake myself in the image of my values and cast off all that I was before. This does not conduce to integration! If I throw away and repress my past, I can never be integrated, because I have not integrated what I am or always was with what I now believe. I had this problem as a teenager in a big way. Oh, I was a bastard: arrogant, haughty, supercilious, malicious, malevolent, quick-tempered, impatient, argumentative, dogmatic. I like to think that I am the opposite of all that now, and I tend to use my former self as the negative example of what I don't want to be.

Anyway, the typical Objectivist does not live an integrated life, and integration is essential to happiness. It's sad, because any Objectivist has this wonderful set of tools for living -- but he may not know how to use it. I was talking to my friend Eric Nolte once, and I said to him that the Randians (Peikovians) are Neanderthals but we (the true Objectivists, the open ones who are attracted to IOS) are only Cro-Magnons. Translation: we're better, but we've got a long way to go. Prometheus has visited and presented us with the fire of the greatest ideas on the planet, but unfortunately we never got the instruction book and we're not really sure how to use this tool. We know it's powerful, we know it's important, but only a very few of us have started to figure out how to use it to live a better life, and even then only incompletely. Certainly our "leaders" are clueless -- Peikoff and his bunch don't know how to find happiness. And personally I don't look to David Kelley for the answers, either. Mind you, I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I do think that I am fairly far along in the integration and total health department. And I think a big part of that flows from the fact that I think for myself and reflect on my experiences and try to put it all together, to integrate everything I've lived with everything I've thought. This is not easy, but it is what reality and Objectivism require. Also I've learned how to live spontaneously and joyously again after so many years of repression. If Objectivism is not a philosophy of joy in living, what good is it?

For myself, I seek my own understanding and the integration of these ideas (correctly interpreted) into my own life. I've come to believe more and more in self-responsibility. If I want to spread Objectivism, I need to do it myself. If I want to understand Objectivism, I need to do it myself. Does that mean I shun all collaboration? Of course not. Does that mean I don't seek value in what others have said about Objectivism? No, I look for value in all interpretations of Objectivism. But I look for value as well in Aristotle and Nietzsche and Confucius and so on. I seek value, I take what others have created, and I try to synthesize it and add some more value to it. I'm not interested in cutting others down (though I used to live for that in my dogmatic years!). I am interested in my own happiness and my own understanding of reality.

Will some official Objectivist organization ever sanction the results of my efforts? Probably not. But who cares? Seek not the sanction of others, that's my philosophy. Instead of "Judge, and be prepared to judge", Rand should have said "Seek not the judgment of others". (Well, maybe I wouldn't go that far -- I do seek and enjoy the healthy esteem of those I value, such as my friends -- I need to clarify this thought for myself.)


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