"I will stop the motor of the world."
Does anyone recognize where that line comes from? I take part in a monthly book group here in the Bangor area, and we generally take on a larger tome for the summer months. Later on this morning we will be discussing "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn (rhymes with "mine") Rand. Since I am one of the presenters today, I had to not only read the whole thing, but really absorb it, research it, and think about how to facilitate discussion.
What a book! I could take days, even weeks to pursue all of the angles that are presented. Some in fact spend a lifetime. The Ayn Rand Institute is an organization founded in 1985 to promote the philosophies espoused in Rand's books and writings - fundamentally, that means individual liberty, capitalism, and the rule of reason and rational self-interest. The Institute is still going strong, and recently gaining momentum.
Apparently, whenever people perceive an upsurge in governmental intervention into business and private affairs, people start buying Rand's 1100 page "Atlas Shrugged." On my cousin's quite intelligent leaning-to-the-right blog (some call it libertarian) he asked his readers one day to recommend one book that a left-winger should read to get the idea behind their philosophy. Atlas Shrugged came up more than any other. It is the right wingers anthem.
So if I consider myself more of a lean-to-the-left type, why am I so captivated by this book? Maybe many more of us are centrist moderates than we realize. The world just isn't so black and white.
It is a mesmerizing, irritating, highly provocative piece of writing. I am uplifted and unchained by so much of the book's philosophy, thoroughly confounded by some parts, and angered and offended by others. It's a sure combination for discussion, no doubt.
The heroic protagonists in the novel are all brilliant inventors and industrialists. One of them begins a trend of abandonment of an increasingly socialist society with these words: "I will stop the motor of the world."
It is a typically egocentric statement of these people, who quit the world and take their minds and productivity away. Their departure from society ends in disaster for the US, but that result is one of many simplistic generalisms that cause me to scoff at Rand's philosophy - especially when I am out standing in my field watching the glorious transformation of the morning sky.
Rand feels far too much reverence for industrialization and development, in my book. It is understandable, given that she grew up in Russia in the first decades of the 20th century before coming to the USA in 1925. I don't know how much appreciation she had for the real motors of the world - the sun, the moon, the balance of natural forces. Certainly, we humans have our place, and it is good that we cultivate the very best of ourselves while we're here, but we are lost without an Earth in balance.
And there is no way that any human beings are going to stop the motor of the world. It will keep on running, utterly oblivious to our human bickerings, until the sun burns itself out. We might be able to forge a path towards our own personal extinction, but the motor of the world will keep on chugging along.
That's the very tip of the iceberg. We'll see how our discussions go today, and I'll have more to say about Rand and her philosophy of objectivism tomorrow.