There was once a benevolent and God-fearing king whose name was Benjamin. He loved his people, and what’s more, his love was deep and genuine. The genuine nature of his love is made evident because it was based on more than just a feeling of closeness and an intellectual understanding of the importance of servant leadership. It was based on a lifetime of experience working beside them in their fields, and battling beside them in defense of their families and homes. Like all true love, it was mutual. The love his people had for him was just as genuine.
As he came to the end of his life, he wanted to share some of the most important wisdom that he had gained in his life. He knew the truth that sharing wisdom is sharing the most important substance one gains in life, since it is one of the only things that comes with us when we pass on. So he had his sons gather all of his people together to listen to him give a speech one last time before he passed on to the next phase in his eternal journey.
In that speech, he spoke of many things. He spoke of the truth that when you are in the service of each other, you are really in the service of your God. He testified of the importance of faith in Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation. He taught about the importance of marital fidelity and virtuous living. He also taught the truth that all of us are dependent on God for our daily breath, and thus owe him everything – that we can do and accomplish nothing without using what he has freely provided. This is the topic I want to focus on for this blog post.
I have a love-hate relationship with the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and there is so much content in what she taught, that most of it will a have to wait for another place and time. For now I want to focus on one character in her book Atlas Shrugged – Eddie Willers.
I am not one who worries about spoiling the end of a story before I experience it for myself. The way I look at stories, if they contain enough truth to warrant reading at all, I will want to read them more than once, in which case I will be reading it, at least the second time, already knowing how the story ends. In most cases, before I read a book I go to www.cliffsnotes.com and read a synopsis and some commentary so that I know how the story ends leaving me the freedom to contemplate the truths contained in the symbolism of the story and how I might apply it to my life. With all of that, I don’t want to spoil the story for those that feel differently, so if you are one of those people – be forewarned I’m going to say a little bit about how Atlas Shrugged ends. Sorry (sort of).
Eddie is probably my favorite character in the book. I know I may ruffle the feathers of some of my friends who are Ayn Rand fans, but to me, he is the only completely moral character in the book. He stood for what he believed in until the end, defending personal responsibility and problem solving, but he also completely avoided the debauchery in which the main protagonists of the book engaged.
Atlas Shrugged ends leaving Eddie’s fate in at best a doubtful outcome, if not completely hopeless. All of the strikers (the metaphoric Atlas in the book’s title) eventually completely leave society to its own destruction (Hence the “Shrugged” part of the book’s title).
I think you might suspect where I am going with this. In a discussion group about Atlas Shrugged, I posed the question about how Dagny could justify leaving Eddie behind to be destroyed with the society that had betrayed those who seek to produce. My answer was that Eddie is a second-hander – someone who did not have the genius to produce at the same level as the main protagonists, and was thus dependent on their genius to survive. This answer didn’t sit right with me, but I didn’t have a good answer to it until I revisited the story of King Benjamin, especially at the point in his discourse where he states:
For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? (Mosiah 4:19)
My basic objection to the ending of Atlas shrugged is that Rand seems to propose that there are some individuals who depend less on the resources available and the source of that which gives life (whatever you believe that source is) than others.
This is probably the biggest point of contention between the two equally erroneous economic philosophies of Objectivism and Communism. Both deny the need for God’s grace, but for different reasons.