Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Who is John Galt?

Posted by Jerry on August 15, 2006

At work today, someone asked me: How would you “revolutionize” India?

It was an abrupt question–asked suddenly, extemporaneously, randomly. At first, I was just a little taken aback by the nature of the question. But he insisted on a quick opinion. I answered, “Leave each other alone to be free; let every man be free, independent individuals. Let us pursue our values as we see fit so long as we do not infringe upon someone else’s freedom to do the same.”

Even though my response was impromptu, I later realized that I had in fact quickly identified an important precept underlying a civilization of rational men:

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men. [The Fountainhead] 

All of this invariably led us into the depths of a philosophical conversation; he raised concerns of total freedom descending into utter chaos; he mentioned setting standards for order; I asked him what standards, who decides, and according to whose desires. I had a point there, he said.

Then, he revealed to me that he had read Atlas Shrugged and found it too utopian–too idealistic. I agreed with him. I said it is a work of art. It is supposed to be idealistic: it projects an ideal–of how men ought to be. Rand was an artist that stylized reality in her works of art. Yet, the essence–the value-judgments, the principles–that Rand codifies in her works is thoroughly reality-oriented and practical. I stressed the point that Objectivism demands that the moral also be the practical, and that the practical is that which is conducive to human life, living, and flourishing on this Earth.

Finally, my co-worker asked me can a person like John Galt actually exist? And I couldn’t help noticing the strange coincidence of it all because just earlier today I had read Mark Lentz’s blog where he said that John Galt was found in Alaska! Ofcourse, that’s not the reply I gave my co-worker (I told him something to the effect of, don’t try to emulate John Galt from the book, but find your own best potential, the best that you can be, and stay committed to that vision).

Nevertheless, Mark’s blogpost about a real-life John Galt in Alaska is truly inspiring; I highly highly recommend reading his post.

In fact, his post about the young John Galt reminds me of Ayn Rand’s lovely quote from Atlas Shrugged reminding us to stay committed to our youthful vision of the ideal, the best that is possible to us on this Earth:

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplacable spark. In the hopeless swamps of the not quite, the not yet, and the not at all, do not let the hero in your soul perish and leave only frustration for the life you deserved, but never have been able to reach. The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.

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2 Responses to “Who is John Galt?”

  1. Mark said

    Ergo, what a lovely posting. Mr. Braund of Alaska is quite an exciting individual.

    I was struck by the following…

    “Then, he revealed to me that he had read Atlas Shrugged and found it too utopian–too idealistic.”

    I agree, also, that Atlas is a portrait of how man ought to live, but I also get the impression that people are afraid to dream, worried where said dreams will take them. Thus, overcome or scared by their own brains they recede back into the pragmatic, deciding to simply “live for the now” and let others contemplate a future that could be.

    When I learn of people who have read Atlas, to come so close to a radical perspective on one’s life and future, but then to reject it…well…I’m saddened. But like you, I take great comfort in the words of Atlas, as you did here with Rand’s magnificent reminder to live with hope for the hero in us all.

  2. Mario said

    Mark, regarding people being afraid to dream, when I first read chapter 5 of Atlas Shrugged, “The Climax of the D’Anconias,” I was struck by the notion that this chapter would be a litmus test for the reader. Now, I was totally fired up upon reading Rand’s description of the “healthy human animal” (if I remember correctly), but I think some people would read that chapter, see the portrait of Francisco D’Anconia, and be turned off. Why? Because they feel uncomfortable with anything beyond run-of-the-mill people — even in fiction.

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