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November 20, 2011

In Defense of Ayn Rand.

Photo: Tripp

For more coverage: Occupy Lululemon.

Shopping Right (Wing): Lululemon’s Political Values.

And, Lululemon wants to know: Who is John Galt?

Ayn Rand was no Yogi. That’s for sure.

However, any philosophical system, like Rand’s Objectivism, has a peculiar capacity. And that capacity lies solely in the individual who applies it in his or her life. The philosophy of Rand certainly does not appeal to everyone. In fact, many are repulsed by her entire philosophical structure.

There are many facets of Rand’s philosophy that I do not agree with. Her militant atheism is something I can certainly do without. Her seeming lack of compassion was furthered by perhaps not the best choice of language. Her views on “the absoluteness of objective reality” is something, as a Yogi and an avid reader on matters pertaining to physics, I disagree without reservation.

However, there are portions of her ideas that have been incredibly influential in my life and many people that I look to for inspiration. Like any organized body of considerations, Objectivism does not have to be taken as an absolute truth. It has to be measured and sensed by the individual to see if it has application in his or her life.

Rand’s idea about the connection between work and values is something that I have personally used in my life with great success. The highest values of Rand, if one were to apply them, could lead to dramatic achievement and a new found sense of purpose in whatever field they choose.

If an individual who was intent on a Yoga practice applied the highest values of Rand’s philosophy, that individual would undoubtedly be in India at this very moment perfecting every asana.

If the highest values of Rand’s philosophy were applied by an individual who was an aspiring Buddhist, then he or she would be under a Bodhi tree for some time before coming back to teach all of us.

Photo: Cometstarmoon

Rand was a champion of success. Rand was a champion of achievement. Rand was a champion of an individual using and developing his or her abilities to produce, create and exist at a higher level.

What an individual creates is a direct extension of who they are. An individual’s productive capabilities are a result of that person’s mind and their ability to use rational thought—to create something of value in the world.

Nothing, in my opinion is more beautiful. Nothing embodies the highest ethics of humanity. That spark in all of us to create in our lives is a reflection of who we truly are.

How big do you want to create?

How big is your mind?

The same old argument against Rand’s selfishness and greed is looking at her philosophy from a very limiting viewpoint. Of course, we all have the right to interpret data and philosophy to suit our own needs and our capacity to rationalize our own existence.

My personal belief is that the philosophy of Rand, when applied on a higher plane that also includes a deeper sense of spirituality, can easily be aligned with Buddhism, Yoga or any other philosophical system that embodies the human potential.

Enlightenment is a form success. It is a form of production. And, anyone who rises in higher levels of spiritual understanding will be the first to acknowledge that it is most definitely work. Hard work.

The definition of work is “energy with a purpose.”

In the world we live in, so many view work as a chore—A necessary evil that must be done to pay the bills and put food on the table. Unfortunately, this is the state of the world that we now exist in. As deeper and more impinging regulations come from the federal government and the large corporations that run it, you will see this become more and more obvious in our experience—Work becoming a modern variation of slavery. Instead of whips and chains, Visas and Mastercards.

Nothing could be further from the vision of Ayn Rand. Rand postulates that work should be a creative act. Work should be the manifestation of each and every individual’s highest ideals and morals. Work should be ultimately a path to the achievement of one’s highest values. That is work. That is, “energy with a purpose.”

Photo: Ricardo Carreon

I laugh when people say that the economic collapse under Bush was a result of the free market economics as prescribed by Ayn Rand.

Or (my favorite) Greenspan’s term as the Fed chairman and his actions were influenced by his previous association with Ayn Rand.

Nothing, and I sincerely mean nothing could be further from the truth.

W. Bush and Greenspan (as well as Obama and Bernake) have done virtually everything Rand specifically warned against.

The policies they have enacted have virtually nothing to do with free markets as Rand prescribed.

The basic lie that the financial crisis has permeated through American economic consciousness is that somehow “freedom is bad” and “free markets are dangerous.” Did you ever wonder who was the source of that message? Did you ever question the validity of such a statement?

Goldman Sachs is not a result of a free market. Wal-mart is not a result of a free market. They are the result of a tightly controlled and regulated bureaucracy that supports these banks and corporations that have seized control of our government. And, worst of all, they, the very ones who have created this whole mess, blame freedom, a free market and covertly demand more regulation and more safeguards.

Who will benefit from these new regulations? Who will benefit from these new controls? Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart will, of course.

Freedom is truth. Truth can be applied across all of life—Economics, politics, yoga, nutrition. It has universal application. In a truly free market, Goldman would be bankrupt and Wal-Mart would be kicked out of every small American town they have ravaged.

Why?

Photo: Ted Van Pelt

As Rand states throughout her philosophy, work and production are related to morals and the rational capability of man.

In my own perception of Rand and objectivism, one of the main pieces missing is the absence of spirituality and extreme rigidness on her views.

Her seeming inability to grant other people the very thing she proposes in her philosophy: free will and rationalism as a means to production.

It seems that she did not learn a fundamental lesson about the human mind and individuality. Rationalism is not a one-size-fits-all concept. It is, more than anything, a process by which each being on this planet gives meaning to the world and their place in it.

After spending time in Ran’s inner intellectual circle in New York City in the late 1950’s, Murray Rothbard, a disciple of Von Mises and one of the fathers of Libertarianism in America, observed that many of the values that Rand holds in her philosophy are not being applied in her own life. It has also been noted that Rand herself suffered severe bouts of depression and anxiety from time to time.

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” -Ayn Rand, “The Virtue of Selfishness”

Although there is tremendous truth to this statement, it begs the questions “Why?” and “How?” Here is a woman who achieved the height of success. A writer with one of the most popular books in history, a philosophical movement with her at the head, fame, and riches yet still with apparently a deep sense of unhappiness herself.

Maybe, instead, “Happiness is state of consciousness that is not dependent on anything. However, as one achieves their highest values in the world, their happiness is made manifest for the world to see.”

Success, achievement and competition when lived from the viewpoint of the highest human potential are never done to be better than or to repress or control others. Real achievement and true competition are results of the expression of one’s highest purpose. It is, in my opinion, a spiritual exercise to show our highest beliefs.

Ayn Rand was no Yogi, thats for sure.  But any Yogi if they drew certain aspects from her philosophy would benefit.

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Lesli W. Nov 17, 2015 6:03pm

Thank you so much for this post! I see I'm not alone in being tired of defending my respect for Ayn Rand's writing. Of all my favorite authors, she is the one who has inspired me to be strong, fiercely independent, proud of my accomplishments and driven to create meaningful things (in my case, that tends to be words). I've had fiery debate over her views on ignorance and I've had debate over her views on individuality.

One of my favorite quotes is John Galt's pinnacle, "I swear, on my life and my love of it that I will not live for the sake of another man nor ask another to live for mine." I am a yogi, and I think this quote means that we cannot ask anyone to be anything but themselves, and in return we promise to follow our own path. To me, it invokes the yama of aparigraha (non-possessiveness/non-grasping)… perhaps if we ask anyone to live for us it is to want them to forsake their own destiny, maybe even their own dharma to appease our own selfish needs. So maybe Ayn Rand was a teeny bit of a yogi in her own right, even if she'd never in a million years admit it.

Thank you!

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Brian Culkin

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