“Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artists metaphysical value judgments.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
So you think I will have a lifelong obsession with fictional characters of their stories?
Why shouldn’t I?
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
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.