As I put down Anne C. Heller’s “Ayn Rand and the world she made” late last night, I felt depressed. The grimly set line of my emotions contrasted deeply with the intense curiosity that led me to buy the book the day it was released in India, and – when I began to read it – the happy sense of anticipated enjoyment that comes when starting out on a favorite expedition.
It wasn’t that the text was bad, although the author’s obvious bias was often as distracting as some of the headache-inducing intensity of innumerable passages penned down by the celebrated – and vilified – writer-cum-philosopher she was writing about. No, more than that, infinitely more than that, it was the tone and nature of the perceptions expressed. The book read as one long barely-disguised attack on Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy based primarily on the faults, factual or surmised, of the person herself.
It set me thinking: how much importance should we give to the creator’s traits and life when judging (accepting / rejecting / moderating) his / her creations (or ideas)? An oft-heard adage comes to mind: “Practice what you Preach”. Till now, this seemed quite axiomatic to me. But, now, I am forced to take a second look on the veracity of this assertion.
Anne Heller seeks to contend that the Objectivist philosophy is discredited because its creator (Ayn Rand) ultimately seem to have been unable to live by it, and the organization that championed the philosophy (NBI) floundered in its pursuit. At first sight, this is perhaps an obvious conclusion.
But, is it intelligent? More importantly, where does it leave us?
Someone I dearly respect once said that she fears meeting great authors and poets for they may turn out to be far less than their books, their poems, their ideas. She, however, remains an avid reader of thoughtful literature and retains her passion for ideas.
And, rightly so, I contend.
For, ideas is what makes us human. Great ideas, inspiring poetry, evolved literature – these form the basis for human culture and evolution. Understanding them, debating their merits and demerits, building on them – these help us grow.
But, often, we get caught up in “Practice what you Preach.” We love gods. Not so much because we are passionate about perfection ourselves, but because we seek an embodiment of ideas – an idol, something – someone – we can touch, see, hear, something concrete. And, the easiest to search is the place of origin – the creators themselves. And, so, we busy ourselves with adulating them, imitating them semi-heartedly and, then, finding flaws with them till we finally reach the point we were, secretly, working towards all along: confirmation that the greater ideas are unreal, unachievable, impractical. And, thus, we excuse ourselves the trouble and effort of striving to live by the ideals we professed to cherish.
So, where does this leave us?
It leaves us merely with the gloating satisfaction of bringing a building down because we could not afford a penthouse apartment. Of course, having convinced ourselves that the building was unsafe because the architect was adulterous, we don’t care. Not for too long, anyway.
So, where, again, does this leave us?
Ultimately, it leaves us as dehumanized intellectual paupers, hopeless and, worse still, needless. It leaves us with FIFA 2010, with summer TV, with Vodka and Lime, awaiting 4:30 am.
If that’s not where you want to be, however, then you’ll not care if I watched Spain defeat Portugal (1-0) with Christiano Ronaldo trudging off the pitch, shamed.
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