Analyzing page 932 of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” – John Galt’s Speech
Ayn Rand writes:
“If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man’s only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a ‘moral commandment’ is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments.“
Human beings are subject to morality because we have free will because we have a rational mind. It is our duty and responsibility to wield that power with responsibility. As Rand previously stated, thinking is also required for survival because humans are not born with automatic knowledge or instinct of how to survive.
Thought precedes all moral decisions and actions.
It doesn’t matter if you accept God as the fundamental source of morality, or reason. Thought directs human consciousness towards good or evil, generative or degenerative action.
“My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.“
Reason is the motive power of Man’s life.
The world around us exists independent of our ability to perceive it. In order to navigate it, we must choose life. To choose life, we must choose to think. It’s that simple.
Reason is our tool of acquiring new knowledge, which can be integrated into our existing body of knowledge for whatever purpose we desire. It is our capacity to gain knowledge that grants us the capacity to take new courses of action.
If I learn a new language, I can choose to more deeply connect to millions of people.
If I learn a new skill, I can seek greater employment opportunity to generate more income.
My ability to decipher truth from falsehood and sift through volumes of data to convert it into knowledge is what grants me the ability to choose any course of action in life I desire. That is to say, my ability to reason grants me life.
Knowledge is not an end; it is a beginning.
Purpose is necessary to the life of a rational being. Our capacity to reason serves the purpose of seeking and realizing purpose itself. It is only when we harness our minds to achieve and end which we deem necessary by our own values, that we become fully alive.
Over the past month, my purpose has been to develop discipline through rigorously following a morning routine. The purpose behind that purpose is to reclaim mental stability in the wake of ongoing depression that left me seeking constant escape through self-distraction by any means necessary. I only wanted to cease suffering at first. Now I want to pursue joy, growth, gratitude, and fulfillment.
I had to read a book like Atlas Shrugged to be reminded just how profoundly valuable my contributions to the world can be if I set my mind to achieve my purpose. I needed a nudge towards choosing life over death. I needed heroic beings struggling to progress against all odds to empathize with, relate to, and identify with.
Knowledge of Ayn Rand’s philosophy still wasn’t enough to fully escape depression. I had to translate the energy I found in reading her work into a purpose. Now that I have found that purpose – writing about her work and its impact on my life – I feel a deep sense of freedom. I feel like I can be myself more so than I’ve ever been. I’m discovering aspects of myself I was unaware of, and growing the virtue of discipline through writing about her work.
Self-esteem is an effect of realized purpose.
How can we grow our self-esteem?
By doing estimable things.
By showing up every day to work out, read, and write, I am living life congruently with my values. I value productivity, intellectual output, and self-improvement. By waking up at 5:20 every day to start my routine, I am acting with integrity to the promises I made to myself to change the course of my life.
It’s been over a month since I’ve started building a morning routine. I am achieving my purpose with it. As a direct result, I have greater energy and self-confidence in my ability as a man. I feel greater self-respect and am starting to carry myself in greater esteem.
I have secured a job opportunity that I otherwise would not have even considered to pursue. I have lost weight. I have increased my energy. I am developing my mind, and publishing content every day. Before my work day starts, I have experienced success and victory over my lower self.
These effects are the realized outcomes of my choice to pursue life over death, growth over stagnation, vitality over decay.
If you think I am gloating, I am not. I am writing this to remind myself and the world that there is a way out of depression and self-sabotage: to choose life instead.
Choosing life looks like defining what you value, setting your purpose to it, and setting your mind to achievement of that purpose.
Choosing life is implicitly choosing to be worthy of life. This is hard for many. Feelings of unworthiness plague the human psyche and are the root of much evil in the world. This choice requires confronting the fear head on. There are 2 ways to do this.
- Pursue therapy and work to change your insides so you can feel free to change your outside circumstances for the better.
- Change your outside circumstances for the better to inform your insides that you have changed, and fear is no longer necessary for survival.
With #1, I’ve seen gradual improvement in my life over years of therapy.
With #2, I’ve seen rapid, foundational transformation in every area of my life.
Both are valid means to personal growth and self-knowledge.
But self-knowledge without action is worthless.
It must be translated into action.