something vicious and very important

by

“Is there some sort of perversion in what we’re taught, some error that’s vicious and very important?”
– Hank Rearden, Atlas Shrugged

We as a culture, slowly but inexorably, are realizing this a little bit more each day: that the stereotypical American Dream is full of false promise, sprinkled with hints of delusion. The white picket fence, the 2.5 kids, the comfy office with a view – while to want these things is not wrong, it is wrong to assume that they can bring us happiness.

But this is what we were taught. All the little girls got doll houses and dreamed of their wedding dress. All the boys got Matchbox cars and strove for the big time. To think that any of this will bring us happiness is in direct contradiction to what makes us human. To what makes us humane.

The quote above is from Ayn Rand’s greatest novel, Atlas Shrugged, uttered by an industrious industrialist trying to come to terms with what is happening in the world. The meaning of Rand’s quote may be different than what I have interpreted here, but the entire scene recreated for me the delusion that so many of us unwittingly cater to. That I, for years, unwittingly catered to.

Another quote from the same passage – in fact before the above quote – helps elucidate:

“They sit here, waiting for this place to give them meaning, not the other way around.”

No place can give us meaning. Even our interpretation of the concept is likely errant. Obtaining that white picket fence does not spell out happiness. Living in the four-bedroom colonial does not provide freedom. Rather it is the meaning we as individuals give to these places, through experiences, that makes it alight with meaning, with intent. That is why every beginner’s guide to meditation tells you to find a secluded place you can make sacred, that won’t be tampered with by anybody else – including your family.

Because if we take the power into our own hands, if we, as vibrant, willful individuals, give meaning to the places we go through our own conscious direct experience, well then that is an altogether different empowerment. An altogether different freedom.

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2 Responses to “something vicious and very important”

  1. K.E. Argonza Says:

    I love what you quoted, and I love this post. This is something that we need to remember, to keep ourselves plodding towards what gives us meaning. Sometimes I lean backa nd get passive because it’s easy to pretend that God, or the world, will give me meaning. But… no one can give us meaning.

    • Jeff Hirz Says:

      Thanks Kat! I agree – it’s a difficult concept for many people to come to terms with and actually employ, that we all create our own meaning. Outside of external factors that, granted, will influence us, but not ultimately define us.

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