Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Who Is John Galt?" - The Ayn Rand Reading Begins

PHILABURBIA, Pennsylvania, USA. "A dark night in a world that thinks it knows how to keep its secrets. But in a small office, just north of Philly, one man is still looking for the answers to many of life's persistent questions: Leigh Irwin, Investigative Reporter." (MUSIC FADE)

"Who is John Galt?" There was that question again. What was it, the sixth time now that that question had been asked in the book?
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in Philaburbia.  It was muggy out, really muggy. So it was good to be in the office in front of the big fan.  It was slowly drawing the cool air from the other room into mine. There wasn't any window in my office so the window-mounted AC unit was in the office next to mine where there were a couple of windows.  The ceiling fans in both rooms helped to circulate the AC into me as well.
I was finally reading the book the boss had wanted me to get into.  It was the 50th Anniversary Edition of Ayn Rand's book, Atlas Shrugged.  It was a Signet book published in paperback - 1,079 pages of a smaller print than I was used to.  How had I gotten roped into this story anyways?  I've never read anything much longer than 300 pages.  But here I was, up to page sixty-four so far, and there was that question again, "Who is John Galt?"
It had been a few weeks back when the boss had unexpectantly walked into the office.  He had this look of seriousness on his face and he was carrying this book in his right hand.  He dropped the book on the desk in front of me and asked, "Ever seen or read that book before?"
"No sir I haven't. Is there something special about it?
"Well, you might say so.  This book was published way back in 1957. That's fifty-three years ago. But yet, on yesterday it was ranked in the sales ratings as number twenty-four.  It's been in the top 100 books sold on Amazon for over two hundred days now.  Wouldn't you tend to think that that was a bit strange for a 1957 novel that is over a thousand pages long in paperback?
"Yes sir, I guess I would."
"Well, I need you to look into it for me.  Do the sergeant's work for me like you've always done so well in the past."
He and I had been in the military together.  He had been one of my officers in a few units in which we had served.  The boss and I had always worked well together.  He'd do the officer work. I'd do the sergeant work, and together...well, we had a habit of doing successful missions most of the time.  And those few where we weren't that successful..well, it hadn't mattered anyways. Someone else had always stepped in and got the job done, usually from another unit in the same area of operations.  So he was asking me to be his sergeant again.
"How do you want me to handle this one boss?"
"Start with the usual sources and go from there.  I got a feeling that while you're doing your normal methodical background stuff that you'll hit on something that others may not be seeing so clear."
"What do you mean boss?"
"Well,  one of the reasons why this book is selling so well right now is that there are some popular radio and television personalities that are holding it up as the book to read if Americans want to see what's happening to our country right now.  I don't think you pay all that much attention to these media stars so it doesn't surprise me that you hadn't heard about this book before."
"So, are we just more or less following along in their footsteps?"
"No, no, know me better than that.  I've been finding out as I talk to some of my old friends that this book has been popular almost from day one in 1957, a long, long time before these TV and radio people got a hold of it.  And I think, that even when this particular time period in American history has changed to where this book is not held up so much in the media as the book to buy, that the book is still going to be something that future generations of readers will study.  I think this book is a classic, but not in the usual sense like we think of Shakespeare or Tolstoy or even someone American like a Steinbeck. So dig into it Leigh. Keep me posted as much as you can. There's no rush on this. For this one we'll take our time and do it up right.  And one more thing Leigh..."
"Yes boss. What's that?"
"I know you'll do this anyways but let me emphasize the fact that we need to be objective about this job. Huh, being objective about Objectivism. That is Rand's philosophy behind this book as you'll find out. How about that for a play on words?  Well, you know what I mean. Put your personal leanings aside and look at this one from all the angles, okay?"
"Not a problem sir. Can do easy."
Then he walked out the door, leaving that book in front of me.
So I had begun the background work.  I hadn't wanted to get into the book until I had some kind of idea of what might be making it so special.  I started with Wikipedia like I do most of the time.  It's not always accurate and many times you can see the writer's bias, but it was still an okay place to start.  There was the entry on Ayn Rand the author.  Then there was an entry for Atlas Shrugged itself.  They even had a separate entry that had all the main characters in it, one after the other with a summary about each.  Then of course there was an entry about Ayn Rand's philosophy called Objectivism. There were also entries on other books that she had written.  Some readers, way back in the fifties, had liked her book, The Fountainhead. So they had been easily drawn into reading Atlas Shrugged as well.  The Fountainhead had even been a 1949 Hollywood movie starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.
The boss had been right. There was much more to this than meets the eye.  So next I headed for the local bookstore at the mall.  I found what I figured I would. There were the novels in the fiction section and the non-fiction books explaining more about Objectivism in the philosophy section.  Then I thought, "I wonder if they have something like Cliffs Notes for Atlas Shrugged?"  They had the Spark Notes version instead. That was only six bucks - not bad.  When I went to the other bookstore that sells the Cliffs Notes they were temporarily out of them. But they had several for The Fountainhead in stock. I passed. Maybe I'll look more into that book later in the research.
When I got back to the office to do more research on the internet there was a pleasant surprise waiting for me.  The Spark Notes version that I had bought in hard copy was on line, free to read.  The Cliffs Notes version was also on line, free to read, with some of the material in audio format. I could listen to a short summary of the book. I read just about everything in the Cliff Notes and the Spark Notes except for the chapter-by-chapter discussion parts. I figured I'd get into that as I was reading the book.
Now I was in the book. It had taken me about ten or fifteen pages to get used to reading a novel again. I had been a non-fiction reader for too long.  But as soon as I started reading the first section with Dagny Taggart in it, I was sucked in.  Could this character be the illustrious Ayn Rand in fiction form? Had she put herself into the story line?  And what did that question mean, that question that the minor characters were asking when their moment of glory in the book seemed to come to an end in certain sections?
"Who is John Galt?"  Well I guess I'll be finding out as I go along won't I. (MUSIC IN)
"A dark night in a world that thinks it knows how to keep its secrets. But in a small office, just north of Philly, one man is still looking for the answers to many of life's persistent questions: Leigh Irwin, Investigative Reporter." (MUSIC FADE)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Before Leigh Irwin Came to Be: Chalet Eagle Looks At Ayn Rand

PHILABURBIA, Pennsylvania, USA. "A dark night in a world that thinks it knows how to keep its secrets. But in a small office, just north of Philly, one man is still looking for the answers to many of life's persistent questions: Leigh Irwin, Investigative Reporter." (MUSIC FADE)

It was a quiet afternoon in Philaburbia.  It was very muggy out and I was very glad to get back to the big fan in my office. I had been to a local food place within walking distance (exercise I now need badly). I had had the "two eggs on a bagel" choice along with something cold to drink. While eating that I had finally finished a book that I had been reading since March. Now I figured it was time to finally get back to a subject that had been written about by my predecessor, or maybe better said, the person that invented me and this blog.  I looked back at what he had written on April 25th, 2010 in an email discussion list. I wondered whether the friends from back then would still want to discuss it. Then I thought maybe others would be interested as well.  So as a kind of a reintroduction to the subject I have included what he wrote below. But this time there are a whole bunch of links included for those who want to know more about what is being discussed.
(begin quote)
In writing about how I was introduced to Ayn Rand first let me give an overall acknowledgment. If it was not for the Lord leading me to discover L'Abri, the ministry of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, I wouldn't even be talking about people like Ayn Rand. I would be too busy with everyday life, not believing that it was my place to even discuss such a formidable and intellectual person as this author of the once-again-much-read book, Atlas Shrugged.

I also acknowledge my brother Warren. He is almost six years my senior, and like many younger brothers sometimes do, they follow along in the footsteps of their older siblings, either intentionally or unintentionally. I don't remember the circumstances years ago when Warren mentioned the writings of Ayn Rand and how they interested him, but that morsel of thought has always stayed with me. That morsel was like a seed that is now expanding into a tree of study that seems to have a life all its own.

Then there is the most recent re-introduction to Ayn Rand through a ministry that has worked hand-in-hand with the teachings of the Schaeffers and L'Abri but does quite well in its own right separate from them. That would be Mars Hill Audio and the work of Ken Myers. His bimonthly audio journal that comes out in CD form, where he is always interviewing a plethora of interesting people, has always caused me to think deeper about life and the meaning we each try to make out of that bigger picture on which we can never quite understand but wish we could.

Also, there is need of acknowledgment for a few things of recent years that have caused me to become what some may call an Information Junkie. Like many I spend a great deal of time on the personal computer. That first step leads to another, exploration of the World Wide Web, what I call The Wild, Wild West of the 21st century. With it comes tools like Google and Wikipedia and YouTube, and yes even Facebook. They give you enough frontier to explore that can keep you busy for hours if you have those hours. I do not. I have to be careful with my time like most. But there is a thirst there that never seems to be satisfied and they provide much of the water that seems to take care of that thirst.

Then there is Alvin Toffler, another formidable character of this era, who should be studied, perhaps right along side Ayn Rand because of the influence he has had, not only in the United States, but worldwide. As a developing futurist back in 1970, His original claim to fame was the book Future Shock. It woke people up to say the least. He and his wife Heidi have written several books, but the next one of importance was The Third Wave, published in 1980, and billed as the sequel to Future Shock. It was this book, in the Spring of 1981, that caught my eye. I found it in a bookstore in paperback. It was more than three hundred pages long but I couldn't put it down until I had read the whole thing. In my limited experience as a reader of books back then and now, this obsession about a book had never reared its head before, nor since. I am a student of the Bible, and always will be, so that is my magnificent obsession with a book. But for some reason, this particular book grabbed me at this time in my life.

Right now I am going through Toffler's newest work, Revolutionary Wealth, published in 2006. Why? I remembered The Third Wave and I wanted to see what he was writing about concerning the future now. This is especially since the economy went south, the present U.S. administration can not seem to be the miracle worker too many people expected him to be, and voters are trading in their Blue and Red t-shirts for some color that symbolizes the word Independent. But guess what?

The Tea Party movement, that independent political group which is heavily in the news, is in many ways Libertarian in their politics. Well, back in the day, when Ayn Rand was still alive, it was the Libertarians that bought into the world view written in novel form in Atlas Shrugged. She did not like them being on her side at all and always chided them whenever she could. But she is not alive anymore to do that and the Libertarians are back into Atlas Shrugged again, for better or for worse we do not know.

Also, when thinking about this economic disaster of recent times, and the politics that has erupted along with it, there is another Ayn Rand connection here. There is one person, right in the middle of our recent economic past, that was closely connected to the philosophy of Ayn Rand and this connection she herself did not mind. In fact he wrote pieces for her publications, before he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve. I am speaking of Alan Greenspan.

In getting back to Alvin Toffler though, which is a kind of a personal connection for me, there is an article from 1964. It is an interview of Ayn Rand that has been described as one of the more telling conversations that can help the average person to really understand who Ayn Rand is and what her philosophy called Objectivism is all about. The person who did this landmark interview was a younger, less famous, Alvin Toffler.
What is uncanny about all this, in a personal way, leads back to the work of Francis Schaeffer and L'Abri. The intellectual vocabulary that any discussion of Ayn Rand includes, is like opening up Schaeffer's Trilogy - The God Who Is There, Escape From Reason, and He is There and He is Not Silent. Both Rand and Schaeffer philosophically speak of such wide subjects as Metaphysics, Morals, and Epistemology. With Rand perhaps you would throw in another major subject, which the Libertarians are looking at - Economics. Rand did not like politics but when you throw in economics you can not help but go there.

So, we will see what happens with this growing tree of thought that is blooming into words here at Chalet Eagle. We will see how far we can go with it for now until we are lead to move on to something else of interest. I am not an expert. I am not a teacher. All I am is a fellow traveler looking for truth and perhaps to help others along the way to perhaps find truth.
(end of quote)
It has taken a while to get started again on this subject. The preparation for that restart has involved the creation of me, Leigh Irwin, a type of fictional character, and this blog.  Perhaps when you think about the fact that Ayn Rand's most read legacy used the genre of fiction, maybe you will understand why my creator did what he did. The subtitle of this blog is, Where Fiction Meets Reality - Head On. Does that help to make sense of it all? Anyhow, not to worry. For how all this is going to somehow work is still one of life's persistant questions for me as well. Enough said for this go round :-)

"A dark night in a world that thinks it knows how to keep its secrets. But in a small office, just north of Philly, one man is still looking for the answers to many of life's persistent questions: Leigh Irwin, Investigative Reporter." (MUSIC FADE)


Friday, June 4, 2010

Memorial Day In The Hospital

PHILABURBIA, Pennsylvania, USA. "A dark night in a world that thinks it knows how to keep its secrets. But in a small office, just north of Philly, one man is still looking for the answers to many of life's persistent questions: Leigh Irwin, Investigative Reporter." (MUSIC FADE)

It was a quiet Monday morning in Philaburbia. I was spending the long weekend in the local hospital waiting for the next step in my treatment for Atrial Fibrillation.  I had been there since late on Wednesday the 26th of May, away from my computer, away from everything except rest.  I didn't know what the weather was like outside except what I could see through the window. It looked like a sunny day.

This was my first time with what is more easily understood as an irregular heartbeat.  The upper heart beats rapidly and the lower part of the heart can't keep up.  Then because the heart is not pumping right your blood pressure goes down.  You get faint and dizzy and any exertion on your part only makes things worse.

You get yourself to the hospital because something else more dangerous may happen.  Because your heart is not working right blood clots can form in the bottom of the heart.  Then one of those clots may break free into the blood stream.  It can end up in your brain causing a stroke.

So there I was in the hospital.  The procedures done there in the first couple of days brought back a regular heart beat.  Then I had to wait out the weekend until Tuesday to have a Cardiac Stress Test and a Pulmonary Functions Test. Finally, on Thursday, I went through a Heart Catheterization.  None of the tests showed anything conclusive so I am back home with a couple more medications to add to those I already take.

Big words, these different tests, and nothing to laugh about. For it is causing some more changes in my life. It is time to seriously look at the diet and to go into that exercise program that includes a swimming pool and getting back to some of that hoorah! training I was taught so well in the military.

..."the military..."

That brings me back to Monday which was Memorial Day.  On that day it was time again for we the living to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.  There were many words written and said on that day.  There were parades and patriotic speeches...all good things.  We need to remember.  We need to be thankful.  We need to look at our own little corners of the world, no matter how materially well off we may be or not and ask the question:

"How different would life be for me and those I love if they (the military) had not done what they did?"

It is another of life's persistent questions that needs to be looked at on a regular basis with a heart and mind that hungers for an answer, that hungers for real truth.

I told the boss that I would not be in until Monday. But if I feel strong enough this morning I need to get back to work. I have too much on which to catch up both at work and at home.  I hope it isn't too humid today. But hey - if it is, I'll just handle it.

"A dark night in a world that thinks it knows how to keep its secrets. But in a small office, just north of Philly, one man is still looking for the answers to many of life's persistent questions: Leigh Irwin, Investigative Reporter." (MUSIC FADE)