Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Timeless Profundity

One of the incredible joys of literature is the ecstacy of recognition.

I think that the biggest factor determining whether I will enjoy a book is whether it helps me make connections that reveal universal themes in human nature or connections that suggest historical parallels across the years.

There are tons of both in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

Rather than tell you which historical matches I am seeing, I will give you a scenario from the book and let you discover an apt conclusion of your own. Here goes:

A new metal product that has catapulted one manufacturer to dominence in the marketplace. This is a problem because the tone of things in the country are such that the government and most of the people don't think it is fair that one company is more successful than another. In fact, a law was just passed that makes it illegal for one man to own more than one business.

But this isn't enough to slow down the success of the maker of this new metal, so The State Institute of Science issues a vaguely-worded warning, highly publicized in the press, against continued use of the product. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the metal and there are plenty of people who know it.

Two quotes from this section of the book and then I am done:

"Don't you know what's true? Truth doesn't matter if it gets in the way of the end."


"There are issues involved, besides questions of fact."

So, does this conjure up anything associations in your mind?


jon said...

One of my favorite books. Along with the graphic novel (comic book) Elvis Shrugged. I will leave it to your imagination until you get it. It's frightening where we are, the power of skepticism in this generation. The sad thing is that I know so many people who would wonder what the point is in your pull quote. They'd see nothing inconsistent between their philosophy and what they've just read.

Ugly Naked Guy said...

So true. And skepticism is likely to continue rising because it really is harder to find the truth these days, what with photo shop and people dancing and singing with Elvis on the Grammy's--the media now really can manufacture its own truth and even the wisest of us might get fooled.

Ugly Naked Guy said...

Jon: I am only 1/5 through the book right now, but I was wondering: do you think the jealously against the successful and call for fairness (where everybody sucks) has any parallels with what was going on with Microsoft a few years back? I know people like yourself--real live computer geeks :)-- have legitimate complaints about Microsoft, but it always seemed to me that mainstream America was just envious of their success. To me the goal of having a business is to be successful and make money. I always though MS deserved kudos for excelling at that. Of course, as a person of faith, I know that you don't pursue those goals at the cost of important values.

No this is not the historical connection I was thinking of as I read this portion of the book.

Sharon said...

Looks like I am going to have to pick up this book also. Based on your comment and ugly naked guys, I find it very backwards thinking that governmental agencies would regulate trade and commerce, but in all fairness, I guess it happens all the time. I am beginning to wonder if a warning such as - America is the land of opportunity, just don't be too successful - is going to be needed.

Ugly Naked Guy said...

Oh, Sharon, you should read it. It is unbelievable that it was written in '57 and has so much relevance for today.

Jennie said...

Off topic, but when you asked if the quotes conjured anything, George Bush came to mind. Now why is that?

Ugly Naked Guy said...

That's not off topic, Jennie. That's what I had hoped people would do. I wasn't thinking of Bush specifically, but that is the great thing about interacting with a book, you can create your own meaning--what it means to you.

Opal: Vegan Momma said...

I read this book several years ago I love Ayn Rand’s style I saw a lot of connections at the time with what was going on in the 1980's and I see them again today.

There will always be some that try to suppress those that are successful unfortunately that is how some people are.

I believe many can achieve "greatness," despite the obstacles that you might face, however, numerous won’t reach those goals, frequently it’s because they’re not willing to do what it takes to attain them.

RockStories said...

This is one of my favorite books as well (randomly placed commas notwithstanding), and I've given it to friends over the years who were caught in those situations where bureaucracy and programming tied the hands of the truly capable (but still expected them to find solutions), but there's a piece of the whole philosophy that's a little too pat for me--a nagging question I'm always left with. Eagerly awaiting the announcement that you've FINISHED the book, UNG, to comment further!

Ugly Naked Guy said...


Hope you hang in there until I finish it because I want to know what your nagging question is. I have a few things I am reading, but Shrugged is a priority. That doesn't mean I will finish anytime soon. I think I am a third through.