I began re-reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged recently simply because it was easily downloaded onto my I-Pad (and the electronic version is oh so much easier to carry around!). It has been over twenty years since I read this book, and I am anxious to see what I think of it with a little more ahem “maturity.”
I am running across some thought-provoking passages, and I’ll try to space out my posts about them so that you don’t get “Ayn Randed” to death. The potential is there; it’s a very long book.
Chapter one, “The Theme,” contains a marvelous description of adult Eddie’s memories of childhood and of a giant oak tree.
He felt safe in the oak tree’s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength
This passage started me thinking…it being a “thought-provoking” passage and all…what is there about life that I feel is something “…that nothing could change or threaten…?” What are my symbols of strength? Where is my giant oak tree?
Yes, cynicism raises its ugly head. I used to think that my marriage and my home was that—the thing that could not change or be threatened. My spouse is who I leaned on.I am reminded of the scene in the Godfather II when Michael Corleone is (through his sociopathic fog)concerned about his wife’s upset over the “family business” and feeling shaky in his relationship with her.
He goes to his mother and asks her if his father had ever been afraid of losing his family. His mother was shocked: “Lose your family! Michael! You cannot lose your family.”
What a concept in today’s world! People do not seem to want to struggle through problems together. If the going is rough or if they see grass that looks greener on the other side of the fence (especially if she’s thirty years younger!), the family goes by the wayside. Mama Corleone’s philosophy of family being unshakeable just does not fly. It’s what makes my business so booming.
No, that’s no longer my oak tree. Heck, even Eddie’s oak tree was eventually struck by lightning. The book has him visiting the shell of the tree, realizing that his “symbol of strength” was no longer strong…
What I think life is teaching me (still in the midst, so I’m not so sure as to what lessons are really there to be had) is that the responsibility for me is me…I have my friends, alright, and they are treasured, as is my son and my family. I am in daily contact with my mother, mother-in-law, and siblings, which is a blessing. I do draw strength from them.
And then there’s God; and I do draw strength from my faith.
But, ultimately, in this world it’s just me. And this is common to us all: we come in alone, we go out alone. We are responsible for the conducting of our lives. Others influence and help, but in the end we chart our own course.
Believe me, I see clients (especially women) all the time who have totally depended on their spouse, neglecting their responsibility to themselves to prepare for life, only to have him leave or—for heaven’s sake—die! It is why I preach to young women—love your families, but get education or have some means of your own in case the “God Forbid” happens. At least I was not in that position.
Now, if this sounds depressing to you, let me hasten to say that it has not been so for me. No, instead, this realization has had a quieting effect on my life. The understanding that this is, quite simply, the human condition has caused me to quit scrambling and scratching to change the unchangeable.
Resenting the fact that we are responsible for ourselves is like resenting the need for oxygen—fruitless. We’re all in this same boat, whether you presently realize it or not. Understanding that, when the dust settles, it’s me and God has actually given me peace. And it has made me more proactive in a healthy way.
And those “symbols of strength?” If you’ve got ‘em, understand that life may well strike them down. I mean, what is a giant oak tree, anyway, but a lightning rod? C
PS- sorry to be so “heavy” after V’s delightful dish/spoon post. It’s what Ayn Rand does to me, apparently…