If Atlas Did Shrug- I’m Not Sure That I Blame Him

I would while away the hours
Conversing with the flowers and talking to the trees
Oh the thoughts I’d be thinking I would be another Lincoln
If I only had a brain

Oh I would wonder why the ocean touched the shore
I would think of things I’ve never thought before
And then I’d sit….and think some more.
Strawman – Wizard of Oz

Well folks I’ve been using my newly regained powers of reason to think. It turned out to be rather time-consuming. I decided to read Atlas Shrugged. It’s been on my reading list for about 50 years or the first time I heard Mom proclaiming that it was the worst collection of evil, selfish, thoughtless drivel ever committed to print.

So I read it and now I’m even more confused than ever. Ok confused is the wrong word. White hot furiously outraged may be a better description. It seems that Rand’s main point is that we are responsible not only for our own actions but the lack thereof. Furthermore, penalizing the people who do work and achieve is not a benefit for those who chose not to. And I agree with that! Being I child of the 50’s I believed in the “American Dream” that you can do whatever you want and reach whatever height you wanted if you put your mind, and your back to it.

What’s been bothering me in the back of my mind is that when I do achieve what I want I am supposed to feel guilty about my achievement. Because, after all, I only got there on the backs of others…right? None of my fruits of my achievement belongs to me and are for my own enjoyment, unless I’m selfish and greedy.

Now wait just a cotton picking minute! I never asked anyone for a free lunch, a free ride or anything else I didn’t earn and now I’m supposed to feel guilty and selfish and give it all away. I just don’t see it that way.

Parts of the book made my hair stand on end. It’s way scarier than any Steven King or H.P. Lovecraft story. Some of the characters in the novel said lines that word for word matched encounters in my life with my own family. I’ve heard “you’re just cold-hearted, you never think of anyone but yourself” in response to requests to borrow my car. Never mind that the last few times they did, they either wrecked it or parked it in a no parking zone so it got towed away and impounded, leaving me to pay for the fines, repairs, etc.

Incidents like this I’ve confronted my entire life. I used to refer to myself as the white sheep of my family. I was called a “stick in the mud” for doing boring things like having a job for more than a month at a time or having insurance, an unexpired driver’s license, an apartment and so on. I have a few siblings and descendants who think that the coincidence that we were born of the same mother or that I gave birth to them means that I am supposed to fund their entire life including drug and alcohol abuse related expenses.

Now I’m retired and it brings a whole new set of weirdness. My “friends” from work say “it must be nice” when I talk about my life now. The trouble is they say it in a sarcastic manner. People automatically assume that I should now fill my days running around volunteering and slaving away for some cause or other, even if I don’t believe in and it doesn’t matter what cause it is. The point is I should not be wasting my time doing “nothing.” Reading and writing has become nothing, evidently.

Well if it is nothing, I’m going to revel in my nothingness. Pass the bon bons, please.

18 responses

  1. I’m have to keep reminding myself that the reason we have the things we have, and live the lifestyle we do is because we have been working hard and making sacrifices for such a long time. We aren’t ‘bad’ people because we have been financially successful!

    1. Yes do keep reminding yourself, please. I have to everyday. If I don’t I fall back into thinking that I spent a life time doing evil greedy things in able to afford to retire.

  2. It’s kind of depressing to hear about experiences like yours. The idea of expecting someone to feel guilty about their success or disliking them for it makes no sense to me. If your friends and family care about you, why can’t they just be happy for you? And it seems to me that people who can’t grasp that someone can be happy without filling up their days with work/volunteering need to examine why they’re so bored by and/or uncomfortable with their own company that they lack the ability to entertain themselves without doing things just for the sake of keeping themselves busy.

    1. I sometimes wonder all these things myself. I have sort of a half developed theory about the busy part and the need to fill one’s days with never ending activities. Being “busy” these days seems to be some sort of status symbol, and an excuse to be rude on top of that. I suspect it carries over into some people’s retirement.

      1. That makes sense, and since some people aren’t able to entertain themselves without jumping from one thing or another, they seem to assume that everyone else is the same, so they think that other people’s lives must be boring if others aren’t as busy as they personally feel that they have to be. So one reason that being busy seems like a status symbol could be because of the large amount of people who assume that anyone who isn’t busy must be bored with their life. And while just hanging out at home and enjoying yourself might be just as fulfilling as a job, the job would sound more interesting to people who aren’t in your everyday life for the details that make it worthwhile.

  3. Great title! The post rocked too, but the title really grabbed me…

    1. Glad you enjoyed my title. hee hee

  4. Does Hub Man know you’re getting all Ayn Randy?

    1. Ooops, This seemed much more hilarious when Momzelle and I were talking about this on the front porch…We’ll see ourselves out now.

    2. Actually Hubman never read any Any Randy stuff and has no opinion about it. That in and of itself is shocking. He usually has opinions about everything, not limiting himself to minor details like not knowing anything about the subject 🙂

  5. I love not having to go to work every day. People who say they don’t know what they would do with their time have no imagination. I have had the sarcastic remarks as well along with “Oh well, you deserve it” when clearly they don’t think that at all.
    I couldn’t care less. What I do with my time is my concern…..I think I might read Atlas shrugged.

    1. I’m finding myself sort of not spending time with the people who seem less than happy for me.

  6. Great blog. I gave it a Bean’s Pat for being the wondering wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

    1. thanks Pat. Always glad when you stop by.

  7. Interesting – I’ve been wanting to read it. I do agree with the commenter above on the “lifestyle” envy piece and I think it is related to entitlement.

    1. Yep entitlement. I used to poo poo the notion of it until it slapped me in the face with a big fish and I realized that I was one of those who possessed what others decided they were entitled to.

  8. Straight up–you’ve earned it. I’ve never read Atlas Shrugged, but I have read some of Rand’s philosophy (“The Virtue of Selfishness”) and I thought it made a lot of sense. Sometimes going straight to the source is what you have to do, because, as with Nietzsche and so many others, their message is often distorted by the supposed “adherents.”

    There is a growing sense of entitlement in our society, and perversely, also a growing sense of envy. I’m not talking about “class envy” so much as I’m talking about lifestyle envy. There is this burning desire for happiness, but so many people don’t seem to know how to find it, and think they can purchase it. Happiness, self-esteem and even success–these things largely come when you do it for yourself.

    1. Lifestyle envy is a good description. Some make the mistake of thinking “If I have what he has (possessions) then I will be happy” instead of “if I have the get up and go and the drive to live and achieve that this person has, I will be happy. Possession are only a material result.

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