Happy Birthday, Atlas Shrugged
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
"Who is John Galt?" The opening line of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's most ambitious and famous novel, has intrigued readers for 50 years. This week the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) is hosting a conference in Telluride to celebrate the anniversary of the work's publication.
Atlas Shrugged is a book about ideas. It is about the power of one's mind, reasoning from the evidence of the senses, to achieve magnificent works that advance human life. It is about the inestimable value of political freedom, which permits the mind to function free from force and guarantees the right of every individual to set and pursue the course of his own life.
It is also a book about towering heroes and dastardly villains: Dagny Taggart, the inexhaustible railroad executive; her brother James, who works to undermine not only his sister's efforts but the pillars of a free society; the pirate Ragnar Danneskjold, who pursues the only course left to him by civilization's destroyers. And John Galt? You should discover his identity on your own.
Thanks to ARI's program of providing free books to teachers, students can more easily experience the power of Rand's novels. ARI's executive director Yaron Brook explained, "We offer and supply free copies of Anthem and The Fountainhead to educators who want to teach the novels in their classrooms but can't afford to purchase the books themselves. The demand for these books has been great. And the project has been very popular with our donors. So far we have shipped over 765,000 books to teachers who are currently using them in their classrooms."
Grand Junction [and other] teachers who wish to participate in the program can visit AynRand.org [or see the page specifically for classroom books] or contact Marilee Dragsdahl at email@example.com or 800-365-6552 x209.
Nearly 500 participants have come to Colorado for ARI's conference, the most of any year. Jeff Britting, ARI's archivist, explained part of the romance of the Western Slope: "Telluride is a major conference center close to Ouray, a resort town that Ayn Rand actually visited. What is interesting about Ouray is that -- prior to Rand's unanticipated discovery of the town, on a trip devoted to researching her novel Atlas Shrugged -- she had already conceived in her mind a location very similar to Ouray. Her imaginary valley would become an important setting in Atlas Shrugged. Although Ouray is actually smaller than Rand's fictional valley, nevertheless, Ouray has the isolation, mountain ruggedness and beauty that matched her imagination perfectly."
Brook added, "This year is special, because it is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged, which Ayn Rand considered her magnum opus... I think the beautiful location is another reason why so many people are coming to our conference this year."
Philosopher Leonard Peikoff, Rand's heir who currently resides in Colorado, will also offer a set of lectures. Brook said, "Another special feature this year is six lectures by Dr. Leonard Peikoff, who worked closely with Ayn Rand for many years and wrote the book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. At the conference, he will be presenting his new theory on integration."
Peikoff's forthcoming book, Brook explained, "is called 'The DIM Hypothesis.' DIM stands for three different modes of integration: Disintegration, Integration, and Misintegration. According to Dr. Peikoff, this trichotomy explains fundamental intellectual trends and movements in our culture. Each movement can be understood with regard to its leaders' attitude toward integration. I attended Dr. Peikoff's first course on DIM, and its significance, for me, is that it helps to clarify my view of our culture and to explain the direction our culture is heading and why."
We wondered whether ARI might be developing a particular interest in the "live and let live" West. Brook commented: "Our interest in working in the Interior West is driven by our mission to promote Ayn Rand's ideas throughout America wherever people show an interest in our programs. We hold and participate in events all across the United States."
He continued, "In general, our conferences generate a lot of interest from people who enjoy socializing with Objectivists and learning from our excellent speakers and teachers. Objectivist conferences are, of course, a great way to meet other people whose lives have been changed by Ayn Rand and her philosophy. For students, it is also a great way to expand one's knowledge of Objectivism."
Colorado participants will host a social gathering on Tuesday night [July 10], featuring Colorado beers and wines (including some selections from Palisade).
FrontRangeObjectivism.com features more information about the Denver-based Objectivist group. (Here we won't dally about which side of the mountain range is the "front" and which the "back.")
So who is John Galt? You may catch a glimpse of him in the mirror, to the extent that you take your own mind and reason seriously, fight for individual liberty, and strive to attain your highest values and aspirations.