Sunday, February 19, 2006

On revisiting an old book

Today, I re-read Anthem by Ayn Rand. I don't think I've touched this book for over 30 years, but I've always remembered it. It's a powerful message on the importance and necessity of individualism and self-determination. Images from the book have stayed with me all these years. I've never forgotten the sad dignity with which the main character accepted his assigned vocation as streetsweeper when he longed to be a scholar or his memory of the Saint of the pyre looking at him as the doomed character died. All I could think today though was how finally short sighted the book ended up being.

In the world where Equality 7-2521 lived, only the unity of mankind was important. Freedom of thought, knowledge and progress were all squelched by having only the collective experience valued. On the Palace of the World Council was inscribed:

We are one in all and all in one.
There are no men but only the great WE.
One, indivisible and forever.

There is a grain of truth in that. We are all connected somehow, and in denying our inter-relatedness, we isolate ourselves and create confusion and conflicts. When Equality 7-2521 made his great escape from society and found his new home, he rediscovered the word, I, and another word which he said he would carve on the wall of his home. That word was Ego. All I could think though was with that as the ultimate motto, another disaster loomed.

Great ideas are not achieved by committee. Art, writing, scientific discoveries and even religious insights are not achieved without ego. They all demand that one look within oneself and value what is found there enough to bring it out into the world. I'ved found though that when I am in the depths of creativity, I enter a state of selflessness. I begin in a very detached place and as my project grows, boundaries disappear. I feel connected to everyone and everything. I am both truly more and less myself then. The only other time I've experienced that is in the depths of prayer.

We need to celebrate ourselves. All the wonders and quirks of individuality are tremendous gifts, and I don't want to live in a bland, tasteless, colorless world where they are all submerged. Just as strong as that desire though is to run from a world where ego reigns supreme. I see the consequences of that around me now.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote that when a Christian sees themselves as a being with an eternal life, consequences become much more important. If we see anger, laziness, gluttony or any other sin growing in our lives, the consequences we experience now or even fifty years from now may be negligible. 10,000 years from now, if we haven't addressed them, they may grow to the point where we have created our own hell. In listening to only our own egos, we may not see the seeds of the hell we are sowing.



7 Comments:

Blogger Gannet Girl said...

Ayn Rand and C.S. Lewis in the same post - that one may take some getting used to!

February 20, 2006 3:37 PM  
Blogger IndigoSunMoon said...

I remember seeing Ayn Rand on some talk show many years ago. I was struck at how powerful her words were, and yet she seemed so quiet and graceful.

Connie

February 20, 2006 3:39 PM  
Blogger Judith HeartSong said...

I always enjoy the workings of your mind.

February 20, 2006 8:51 PM  
Blogger Theresa Williams said...

Oh my, an admission: I have never read Ayn Rand! Somehow I skipped her completely in all my university studies. You said: "I don't want to live in a bland, tasteless, colorless world where they are all submerged." We were talking in my creative writing class this evening about something James Agee write in one of his letters to Father Flye, that there are two types of writers, bishops and saints and that Agee preferred the saints. I'm going to do a blog entry on this topic soon, so I won't go into detail now, but I believe what you're saying is that you want to be a saint, not a bishop; you want to live more than an administrative life. Keep leaning towards that, Cynthia, you'll get there. Already I see fire in you.

February 21, 2006 12:29 AM  
Blogger V said...

Beautifully written; lovely thoughts!
V

February 21, 2006 2:41 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Nice job! Gives me food for thought!

Thank you,
Tammy

February 22, 2006 3:22 PM  
Blogger ckays1967 said...

I begin in a very detached place and as my project grows, boundaries disappear. I feel connected to everyone and everything. I am both truly more and less myself then. The only other time I've experienced that is in the depths of prayer.


and

In listening to only our own egos, we may not see the seeds of the hell we are sowing.


Both of these lines struck a deep cord within my soul....

February 22, 2006 7:59 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home