My bag has been so much lighter since I finished this book.
I finished reading it almost two months ago, after lugging the damn thing around for a good five weeks. I took it with me everywhere and read it every chance I got. Still it took me over a month to fully absorb its brilliance, and twice as long to compose my tribute to it.
And so here it is. My paltry attempt to pay homage to a work of art that changed my life.
I will not go into details about the storyline or the characters. I believe that everyone needs to read this book for themselves, and what fun is there in reading a story when you know what happens next? I will say that Atlas Shrugged is a mystery, it is an adventure, and it is a championing of capitalism. It is full of crime and greed and those basest of human conditions. It is a record of what happens when people are overcome by aforementioned conditions. But ultimately and above all, it is a story of love, and the discovering of oneself.
Rand's position on love is a unique one. In loving someone, she believes, you are offering up your own mind, body, and spirit. In effect, your lover acts as a mirror, reflecting what you offer and showing it back to you. In this way she sets forth the idea that love is not necessarily about the worshipping or even the adoration of a partner. Love is not "to choose a person as the constant center of one's concern," but rather "...love is a celebration of one's self and existence." Also, she writes that love is not "some static gift which, once granted, need no longer be deserved." Love must be constantly earned, over and over again. This notion is lost on so very many people, and I believe it is the downfall of so very many real-life love stories.
More than anything else, though, the book helped me to understand that
my life is my own.
If I'm happy, it's because of something I've done, the people I've chosen to associate with or the goals I've decided to pursue. If I'm unhappy, it's my own fault and no one else's, because I am the only person who has the power to change it. Rand says, "Man exists for the achievement of his desires." So, then, what better way to live your life than to strive towards achieving your desires, whatever they may be? Strive, strive for yourself and for no one else. Your true love will join you on that path rather than block it.