Rand & Rowling

“Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artists metaphysical value judgments.”

~Ayn Rand

Let’s just start.

I think the two people who helped shape my philosophies are: Ayn Rand and J K Rowling, in that order, even though I read Harry Potter before Atlas Shrugged.

(Disclaimer: This is not an analysis of Rand/Rowling as writers and philosophers. It is simply an emotional impression of how they have impacted my thinking.)

I don’t find Ayn Rand extreme. I find her romantic and isn’t it wonderful to watch someone be articulately idealistic? I remember cheering inside my head to the amazing dialogue-baazi in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand taught me to build, analyze and break down arguments and spot the idea at its root. She taught me to say what I mean, and mean what I say. She taught me to not give up on idealism and protect that noble vision of life and future you have as a kid. She alerted me against our default philosophies, the contradictions we carry, and she marked out good and bad with conviction. Ayn Rand also taught me that feeling pity is not a virtue. Think about it, this thought blew my mind.

Most of her statements did. Like this one,

“To say ‘I love you’ one must first know how to say the ‘I.’ The meaning of the ‘I’ is an independent, self-sufficient entity that does not exist for the sake of any other person. A person who exists only for the sake of his loved one is not an independent entity, but a spiritual parasite. The love of a parasite is worth nothing.”

~Ayn Rand

Oh, you should have been there. I was growing by leaps and bounds in thought, in anger, in judgments.

Maybe I was an angry, misunderstood teen after all; who needed Rand’s persuasive arguments to rebel against what till then was only my undefined, emotional rebellion. And maybe when I furiously nodded to her statements while I read her works, I only sought external approval for what I was doing or had done. (Seeking approval is definitely not Rand.)

If I didn’t have her, I would have found myself being miserable and I wouldn’t have known why. I would have scanned my life for that moment, memory after memory, trying to find the turns that led me to lose the plot, and I still wouldn’t have found the root of my bitterness. Ayn Rand gave me a jump-start into proper thinking which I never would have had without her. I am so grateful for that.

My Randian invincibility didn’t last long. I was the INTJ personality that Rand idealizes in her romantic world, but like I have pointed out earlier, I was not a pure Randian heroine.

I was not self-sufficient. I was not complete all by myself. I still seek approval and praise. (The psychological root of this particular nonsensical behavior? Don’t ask.)

Soon I found myself just arguing constantly in my head, trying to resolve the contradictions I had inside me. I was imperfect by the standards of my own philosophical hero.

Walks in, J K Rowling.

—————————

Off track:
Before I knew to think properly, I was critical of stuff anyway. By now, you should know that. So… I used to hate cartoons where the smart guy, with some depth of character, is the sidekick and the talented-enough-but-really-just-stupid-with-unnecessary-bravado-guy is the hero of the story. Beyblade? Pokemon? When I was in school, they were a hit with all the franchise’ toys and stickers, and I sat in the corner just disapproving of heroes my classmates used to imitate.

Frankly, that was still better.

I feel sad that kids nowadays have to watch that whiny Doremon or that frustrating Shin Chan, when we had Scooby Doo, Ritchie Rich, Dexter, Oswald, Noddy, Bob the Builder, Powerpuff girls.. I could go on. We watched the good stuff. These kids watch crap! I would even watch the mind-numbingly slow Dora the Explorer or Blue’s clues than watch Doremon.

My current favorite cartoon series: Phineas and Ferb. That cartoon show shows kids to be ingenious, to trouble your sister silly, have arch-enemies and weird friends and weirder pets. That is all you need to know as a kid.

—————————-

Point being, I didn’t like the fact that Harry Potter was an accidental hero.

Not saying, I didn’t like the HP series as a kid. I was a Harry Potter fan (until too many kids became fans, and I was pissed off). I even had my own wand. I used to daydream about being in a magic school where I am a sincere, insufferable genius but still-kinda-cute– like Hermoine Granger– and life being amazing with magic in it.

But then I read Ayn Rand, and I realized by Randian standards, Harry is not a self-made hero. It seems like a complete fluke- Neville could have been that hero! And Dumbledore’s solution to every question Harry asks is LOVE! Are you kidding me, Dumbledore?

Why, Rowling? Why? Why isn’t Hermoine central to the plot and why is Harry ‘the Chosen One’?

And the answer was in the first book itself.

When they’re in the trapdoor, and in the second last test (Snape’s Potion Puzzle) and Hermoine realizes that they’ll have to part ways for Harry to reach the last level, she says,

“Harry – you’re a great wizard, you know.”
“I’m not as good as you,” said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.
“Me!” said Hermione. “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery and – oh Harry – be careful!”

And I argued with that too! It’s such a naïve thing to say.. Bravery and friendship? What.

Oh, how I wish I could tell you every little incident that proved to me that in fact, she was right. Other HP fans have helped me see how Harry is not a fluke. This post is getting long already, so I’ll just summarize that Rowling solves all my contradictions, and it doesn’t really go against what Rand believes.

I still completely understand ‘the virtue of selfishness’. Living in a collectivistic society, one battles with norms and even the good-will of family and friends all the time. It may seem virtuous to compromise and adjust and find your own self within the boundaries acceptable to all, but it is even more important to break free and selfishly do what is right for you.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

~Dumbledore

Because you know what, you think you are being this martyr for the good of all, but the same people are going to turn around and tell you that they didn’t ask for you to do that for them. So, really, did you just sacrifice yourself because you are an idiot who felt compelled to bow down to undefined, unconscious values?

And if you’ve been that idiot, it is not over for you yet. Even though Ayn Rand may seem like this unforgiving, easily irritated by people-less-than-awesome, I am sure she wouldn’t condemn you to it. She’d urge you to snap out of it! Act on what you’ve realized.  There’s hope! There’s always hope. Nobody can condemn you to a life you don’t want to live. Have the guts to do what you want to do. That’s what Rowling says too.

“The thing about growing up with Fred and George,” said Ginny thoughtfully, “is that you sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”

I love Ayn Rand. She fought with articulate conviction for her romantic ideal. She lived her ideal, with psychological issues and all. I love J K Rowling. Harry Potter could really be analyzed as a piece of literature, and also be a fairy-tale for kids to start learning to read. You see the genius? She’s not even being didactic, and she has saved me.

Rand is my extreme, Rowling is my centre. It may seem surprising, but they don’t contradict each other. Yet.

Apparently,

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

~John Rogers

So you think I will have a lifelong obsession with fictional characters of their stories?

Why shouldn’t I?

Signing off,

Tame SheWolf

WORDLY WISE:

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

~ Dumbledore

PS: I got sorted into Gryffindor and my wand is 14 ½ inches, silver lime with unicorn core. I am so much more cooler than you. Just get with it. (I am saying this with Randian invincibility. You can hear it, right?)

P.PS: This post seems pretty coherent to me, for now.. but I don’t know if it seems just disconnected blabbering to you.

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11 thoughts on “Rand & Rowling

  1. Very coherent, but here’s my question about Rand (haven’t read her yet, only Harry Potter, duh!) In Rand’s world, what happens if you fall ill, or can’t look after yourself, or a hurricane destroys your home? What then? Because if in Rand’s world people won’t help that person, then it’s not a world I want to live in.

    In Dumbledore’s world, the answer is crystal clear (although not backed up by an actionable set of economic principles I fear.)

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    1. 😀 Thank you!

      There was an essay I read of Rand’s where she replies to the question ‘Should I save a drowning stranger?’ by essentially saying ‘You immoral *%&^$, of course you should!’ (Read it here: http://www.andrsib.com/rand/emergencies.htm It’s a bit more technical in its terms than I made it sound.)

      Life has value, not measured in economic terms. From how I see it, all Rand is asking is ‘Don’t help because you should. Help because you want to.’ That way, you’re not a sacrificial nutcase. You would have made that same, seemingly self-defeating choice a thousand times over for that person.
      Isn’t that romantic?

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  2. Thank you for such a nice post. You have put in words a lot of my own thoughts. For this reason, I would like to share them with you, I hope you don’t mind.

    This comment is quite long and might be incoherent from place to place. Please bear with me.

    I read Ayn Rand after I read Harry Potter. I always felt that Harry Potter was the idealistic story with bravery and friendship and loyalty always getting its due. Ayn Rand’s works for me seemed to be more real, where selfishness is a virtue and people don’t really care much for you, unless you are useful to them somehow.

    I understand that a lot of people detest her philosophy (Ayn Rand), but isn’t that what she had predicted in her book? She knew that people won’t be able to accept the slightly misanthropic worldview that she tries to promote. But, does she care? I don’t thin so.

    Some people have even said that her characters are awful. To each his own. Doesn’t make much of a difference to me. When I read the fountainhead, Howard Roark became my perfect person. The man I wanted to be. So self confident, so clear in his head about what he wanted and so fanatically driven to get it! There was also Gail Wynand. I liked how he stood up to everyone who put him down and finally emerged successful against all odds. He was my hero too.

    This was the book that taught me that there was no evil, only excellence and mediocrity. It takes effort to be an excellent villain too! Elsworth Toohey shows that. Mediocrity is far simpler to achieve as Peter Keating shows, but never as fulfilling as excellence.

    In her universe, Rand makes mediocrity the ultimate sin (haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, so can’t comment on that). I had never imagined that even such a point of view could exist! I had always been taught to be content. Rand shattered that belief and pushed me to go higher. I might have raised my expectations a bit too high and I might be suffering from a skewed sense of entitlement, but I am not going to just sit back and be content with whatever comes my way.

    As for Harry Potter, I pity those who haven’t read the book when they were kids. I have grown with the characters in that story and I have enjoyed every little story of theirs. I don’t know how much I have learnt, but this much I know – life without friends is not worth living.

    I don’t know if this agrees with Rand’s philosophy or not, and I don’t care. I never really wanted to follow any particular philosophy as such. I like to take whatever I like from wherever I like.

    As for that quote from John Rogers, very clever. But again, I don’t care what he thinks of Rand and her characters, I loved them and that is what matters (for me at least).

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    1. Thank you, Aamil, for taking the time to pour your thoughts!

      I think, Ayn Rand is not misanthropic at all. I think she advocates the glorious man. She daydreams about humans being stronger than what they really are. It takes one to get past her anger and disappointment, and appreciate the spirit of what she is saying, and not bind and twist her to what she has exactly said. For me, even what she has exactly said makes proper sense, and she presents the argument so beautifully that at least I find it difficult to puncture.

      I think, she understands sadness. She doesn’t understand weakness. I love that she is unforgiving about the latter.

      “This was the book that taught me that there was no evil, only excellence and mediocrity.”

      “I had never imagined that even such a point of view could exist!”

      FUCK! TELL ME ABOUT IT!

      But like you pointed out, this clear distinction kills a little. Life happens, and we realize we’re not the best of the best. Commercial success is about hardwork and talent, (of course!) and a little bit of luck. But I think she doesn’t dwell on it, because ‘a little bit of luck’ is the reason you’ll start praying to non-existent gods. But she reminds us to trust in life, to think properly, to learn always: Life is not an emergency situation; success is not measured by other-opinions; bear the consequences of your philosophies- conscious or unconscious.

      Ask me how J K Rowling saved me from that excellence-mediocrity dilemma. She wrote,
      ‘It is our choices that make us who we are, Harry, far more than our abilities.’

      And I didn’t quote John Rogers because I agreed with him. I always use the word “apparently” sarcastically.

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  3. So, here I am. I have read HP, as you would know. And I have read The Fountainhead when I was still a teenager/college-goer, whatever you will. Then, I spent some time going out in the world, working for corporates and I picked up Atlas Shrugged. Because you know, that’s the ultimate Rand, isn’t it?

    Expect that my life took off?

    Opposite.

    I found her to be too idealistic. In spite of being a person who loves good writing, I didn’t “get” Atlas Shrugged. Don’t get me wrong, I am a total believer in idealism (as you would know), but I have to admit that I was done with Rand by then. Yes, she talks about excellence and following what you want without caring about anyone else’s opinion. I think that is by far a recipe for disaster. You are nothing without the rest of us. No one becomes a hero on his own. If the show is a success, you have to thank the guy who fixed your mic at the start of it. I know it’s a juvenile example, but I believe that you can’t get anywhere, you can’t be a super genius without the innumerable people who support you to get there.

    Even if that means that you have to be thankful to the man who opens your laboratory at 7 am so you can start your research. I hope I have explained myself enough in spite of the inarticulate stuff I have been penning so far.

    And yes, kudos to getting so many people to “talk” after you post something. Achievement, must say. 🙂

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    1. I know first-hand that Ayn Rand can bog you down.
      Imagine the approval-seeker me cannot match up to my own chosen hero. I died a little. Really.

      Like I said, Rand idealizes being Intuitive, an Introvert, a Thinker and a Judge.
      I eventually realized that there is no one-kind of perfect person. An extrovert can be pretty self-sufficient about her personal identity. Sensing is not a wrong way of creation or gathering information about the world. A person who feels things as opposed to the one who only thinks about it, is not essentially wrong. (Actually, a person who feels, tends to be less of a sociopath.) A judge doesn’t necessarily make a better thinker than a person who perceives.

      Rowling has all kinds of personality types in her story. All of them are self-sufficient characters while Rand has just this one type that is glorious.
      That may be the reason why, Rand may seem one dimensional to many.

      I know what you are saying. I have no objection to it. I agree. Man is after all a social being.

      Thank you. Comments have always been more satisfying than the statistics.
      I shall revel in the joy while it lasts.

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  4. I don’t like Rand’s idea of classifying people into different groups and I don’t like judging. Judgement is a precursor to hate. Same thing with dividing people into groups. It’s what Hitler did.

    Rowling never does that. She has sympathy for all her characters, including Tom Riddle, and even the Malfoys are redeemed at the end. We can see them as victims too, if we refrain from classifying them and being judgemental.

    All humans share 99.9% of their DNA, so discriminating between individuals is silly. As Rowling says, it is actions that make us, and behaviour can change – but only if we forgive and allow people to change. Rand never seems to acknowledge that.

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