We continue our analysis of John Galt’s Speech in Atlas Shrugged, where Ayn Rand defines her chief virtues of the rationally self-interested man.
These virtues are: Honesty, Integrity, Productiveness, Pride, Rationality, Independence, and Justice.
These virtues are required to fulfill man’s drive for Reason, Purpose, and Self-Esteem.
“Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man’s values, it has to be earned—
that of any achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the creation of your own character—
that your character, your actions, your desires, your emotions are the products of the premises held by your mind—
that as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining—
that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul—
that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is born able to create, but must create by choice—
that the first precondition of self-esteem is that radiant selfishness of soul which desires the best in all things, in values of matter and spirit, a soul that seeks above all else to achieve its own moral perfection, valuing nothing higher than itself—
and that the proof of an achieved self-esteem is your soul’s shudder of contempt and rebellion against the role of a sacrificial animal, against the vile impertinence of any creed that proposes to immolate the irreplaceable value which is your consciousness and the incomparable glory which is your existence to the blind evasions and the stagnant decay of others.“
Damn. That’s powerful.
Your life is your highest value.
Not in the narcissistic sense. But in the sense that every value you hold requires you to value your own life first and foremost in order to manifest your other values. You can’t give yourself away to God or service to others if you’re dead. You can’t serve country or family if you’re dead.
Pride is the emotional experience of rightfully recognizing the value of the marvelous life you’ve created for yourself. It is a feeling something like confidence + bliss + certainty. It must be earned.
If you’ve worked your ass off to achieve something great – something which you value – and aligned your behavior with your values to produce it – and stuck it out in the face of adversity – and achieved the aim of your values – you deserve to feel proud.
Your mind controls your emotions, desires, actions, and character.
Ayn Rand states it differently than an eastern yogi or western self-help guru. But the principal she is getting at is universally true. Man’s character is a result of the actions he takes when nobody is looking. Man’s actions come as a result of his desires and emotions. And man’s desires and emotions come from beliefs and premises held by man’s mind.
Because our mind is the origin of everything we feel, do, and experience, we must control it. It is our moral duty to put our mind to service of self, so that we may be of service to others.
James Allen likens the mind to a garden:
Something will always grow in fertile soil. If you put conscious effort into it, pruning away weeds, and instead planting flowers and bushes to create beauty, elegance, symmetry, harmony, and peace – you will have it.
However, if you put absolutely no effort into shaping the garden of your mind, plants will still grow there. You will have haphazard, ugly, irrational, inharmonious, competing weeds planted by mere chance and entropic forces of nature.
Man is a being of self-made soul because he is a being of self-made mind.
There is no getting around the essential nature of our mind as the source of our virtues and vices – and life circumstances. As soon as we change our minds and act differently, different circumstances ensue. It is a difficult process to consciously choose what’s right for us to flourish, especially in a sick world full of sick people who would discourage us.
However, we must choose to do what is right for ourselves if we are to thrive.
That means we must choose values, and aim for them.
If we don’t choose values for ourselves, someone else will happily choose for us. They are the manipulators, dominators, propagandists, and politicians of the world.
Do not let weak people destroy your soul.
We live in a world where the most virtuous have the opportunity to make the most money. It’s a miraculous time to be alive. If you are hard-working, intelligent, honest, and love creating value, you can crush life.
However, the more you earn, the more you’re taxed. The more you’re scorned by weak people who can’t produce. The more weak people clamor for your wealth, claiming their weakness is their claim to your wealth.
Team Evil is bigger than team Good today.
But if we focus exclusively on that, and bicker about how taxes suck, and do nothing to change the sociocultural landscape that bashes the wealthy for producing value and substitutes victimhood as virtue while damning virtue itself, we’re fucked.
We must make team Good bigger than team Evil in our own lives.
The only way to survive in a pretty crazy, irrational world is to surround yourself with sane, rational people who share your core values.
And that’s easier than ever, with communications technology and the internet. Nothing is stopping anyone from starting a podcast, YouTube channel, website, or company to serve as a signal to the world that “I stand for X!”.
How do you do it?
Become the kind of person who naturally attracts the people you want to attract. Show up for yourself. Value your own life. Develop yourself into a more virtuous person. Be proud of your value. Showcase it to the world; do not hide in the dark.
You’ll find your tribe when you are proud of the statement “I am.”