Monday, September 23, 2013

Ayn and Nora: Perspective is at the Root of All Decisions

On a sick day, I usually turn to reruns of The Price is Right but this time I settled for a documentary of Ayn Rand (The Sense of Life, 1998). About this time last year, I read Atlas Shrugged, and it stuck with me because the philosophies on servitude and oppression of talent felt evident in my ill-fitting job at the time. I only got through the first hour of the documentary, realizing that the internet might have more engaging (or at least the possibility of unbiased) content of this interesting lady.

I was not disappointed.

After sifting through scores of articles on how she might have had a psychological or mental disorder, I found the story of reuniting with her youngest sister, Nora, to be the most intriguing. After 35 years of no communication, Nora came to visit Ayn in Manhattan. She didn't like America because of the overabundance of choice (known today as decision fatigue), the conveniences of our technology, and a much more tacit issue of having one’s dreams (i.e. freedom) at arm’s length versus in one’s head, where it can remain glamorized and untouched by the burdens of reality.  

This might take a few minutes...
Before reading this article, I wasn't sure why anyone would not like it here. When I was in college, I met a couple of Russian girls my age that definitely preferred to live in their old home versus Maryland. They couldn't quite articulate the issue, and I dismissed it as an offhand comment.* However, the insight of the sisters’ reunion made the stark difference of how we value human relationships and time spent on any given activity. Not that all relationships in America are shallow, but with the heavy emphasis on networking, Facebook friend numbers and general screen time, we spend surprisingly little face time with our friends and family. American culture, with its conveniences and technology, is set up to enable workaholism, consumerism, and indulgence of all waking hours into anything we like. It’s wonderful, but not for everyone.

"To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering." 
- Friedrich Nietzsche

As for achieving one’s dreams or adhering to an archetypal purpose, I’m conflicted because there are a lot of individuals who are satisfied with their current lives and don’t require freedom to fulfill their self-actualization. 
Livin' the dream.
The flavor of American Dream that entails of leading a fuller, richer life may not appeal to such people. There will also be those who are driven, who will do the work and find the place they need to be. For those in between – who are not satisfied with their current position and don’t have the drive for doing something about it – this is a case of clashing or unknown values, which requires some psychological or spiritual digging and a different perspective for resolution.

*The majority of folks who've come here from another country are overwhelmingly positive about being here. Some quotes:
"You know, the best part about being in America is ordering food through the window of your car and being able to eat it inside the car!" 
"I've waited 25 years in order to ride a big roller coaster like this. We don't have them at home."
"You can work hard and move up. Or be lazy and not make money."