Thursday, May 14, 2009
Nascent thoughts on John Galt...
Nascent as in just starting to be formed.
It’s a bit ironic, I think that Ayn Rand’s first job in Hollywood was as an extra on the set of deMille’s King of Kings. From a start in a movie about the ultimate sacrifice, Rand became the ultimate individualist, pursuing a philosophy of the ego called objectivism. In it she posits that sacrifice is evil(oops- that's a misnomer here- she probably didn't use that category) as it constitutes the substitution of a lesser value for a greater one. This goes to a point that what one places value in is the basis of life. Her’s is a view that sees all altruism as wrong. From a Christian worldview, she has all the pricetags wrong.
Sin is ultimately related to an individual’s degradation of the ultimate worth of the Ultimate Being. So that (along with most of the world) is her basic flaw.
This is a sterling example of upside down thinking- what happens when the correct absolute is denied- suddenly everything you know is wrong- a logical conclusion of what Dostoevsky is supposed to have said: "If God is dead, everything is permissible”. Actually he doesn't seem to have said that- more accurately, "If God does not exist, everything is lawful."
Rand's loathing of collectivism in ALL forms found expression in Atlas Shrugged. A leftist leaning Hollywood did not welcome her early novels, which were criticized for their anti-Communist stance. Then an idea came into a favorable time- Atlas Shrugged was published at the height of the Cold War, and its message was welcomed by an America that feared and despised Communism. As a collectivist system that forces individuals to sacrifice their own interests for the good of the state, Communism threatened the personal and intellectual freedoms Rand considered essential.
Christians would agree that "forced sacrifice" is a negation of grace in both positive and negative terms. Just as grace demanded abrogates the concept it embodies, forced sacrifice removes the freedom of response demanded by love. For Rand, and John Galt, the work of a person's consciousness is to perceive reality in its objective sense, to identify and recognize it as what it is, not to invent an alternate reality. The Scriptural view of reality is objective- and it posits that fallen man can not perceive reality in its whole, as he is mired in finite subjectivity. He cannot truly know reality, or his own motivations without a supernatural superintending of that reckoning of reality.
Atlas Shrugged attempts to extrapolate a potential logicus terminus for the world if economic freedom were lost, if emerging collectivist trends were to continue to their logical conclusions. The novel shows the results of a society where the consumers who produce nothing outstrip the producers and the results of the demise of efficient production. The producers in effect bail out in the end, refusing to participate in the chaos. At the end of the day, one might agree with the current application of her ideas in the present milieu, but we must finally come to the realization that Rand portrays the world in a contrast of consumer/producer that denies the paradoxical reality that self-sacrifice results in blessing in God’s economy. The pursuit of excellence involves short term sacrifice for long term gain, and the greatest excellence is revealed Truth of the nature of God and His relationship to the nature of man.
Hebrews alludes to this paradox in Hebrews 12:2 “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Again in Philippians 2:8-11 we are told that “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
By way of contrast- think on the ramifications of this quote: "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." Part Three, Chapter IX.
Christ despised the shame for the sake of the glory set before Him. It was purposeful self-sacrifice dedicated to the ultimate glorification of God, the greatest value in reality. This is realized in the foolishness of the cross that confounds the wisdom of man (1 Cor 1:18-25). It is for Gods sake that he lives. Man benefits from this love but it is the love of the Glory of the God who IS Love that sources the light of the world. In leaving the God who created man in the imago Dei out of the equation, Rand’s Objectivism is doomed, as it can never find the proper perspective or basis in an ultimate against which to define rational thought.
And this quote:
“John Galt is Prometheus who changed his mind. After centuries of being torn by vultures in payment for having brought to men the fire of the gods, he broke his chains—and he withdrew his fire—until the day when men withdraw their vultures.” Part Two, Chapter V.
Galt represents man’s mastery over nature and the principle of capitalistic economic advancement for the sake of man’s advancement. Thus it perverts two principles: First that all authority and stewardshjip of creation is delegated by the Creator, not man, and second, the principle that sacrifice is like a crop of seed that gives supernatural yield to those who labor diligently in this world. The principles of evil and injustice are out to abrogate this arrangement and the result is hubris, economic plight, and material and spiritual suffering. It is not only political collectivism that is the danger- it is the basic human fallenness that pervades power and dominion in society.
Under Rand's way of thought, people have no obligations to each other beyond the obligation to respect the freedom and rights of other self-interested people. This eiminates any concern for righting the ravages of a fallen world and denied the interconnectedness of the human species, and denied the propensity and clear witness of the nature of man to trample human rights and subjugate the weak. Prometheus unrestrained will become a vulture himself.
Jesus is still being persecuted today but by the power of the resurrection he has become the resurrection and the life who will never leave or forsake his own. He alone has the power to turn that which men mean for evil into that which avails for our good. He comes in judgment after a long patient wait for many to come to know him, to vindicate the faithful and to punish the wicked. It is only by the power of the cross that the vulture becomes the sparrow who rides the eagle’s wings.