Quote of the week...please share your favourite line from Ayn Rand's writings

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

Friday, July 31, 2009

Atlas Shrugged on small screen

Word is floating about Atlas Shrugged finally being made into a movie. While many are happy others are ... well, not-so-happy. I am one of the slightly sceptical one. My argument is on two counts: (a) movie adaptations of books, and (b) Rand's novels.

(a) Movie adaptations of books:
I have hardly ever seen any good movie adaptation of a book. The movie always takes something away from the story told in words. Some parts which you think were essential to the novel are completely missed out in the movie. The movie in the end is one person's imagination of the novel (the director's).

(b) Rand's novels:
There are some books you read which change you, some preach about being better, some show the 'real' side of life. But Rand's novels introduce you to your essential self. Post your read, words like morality, selfishness and happiness have a greater meaning. The novels are not just another great story told very well (whereas they do make a great read!) But they engage you for a philosophical self-discovery. This is perhaps very difficult to freeze in a frame.

If anyone hasn't seen ' The Fountainhead' movie, here's the link. As much as I was waiting to see Howard Roark in flesh and blood, I was a little disappointed to see the actor in this film. Perhaps, Howard Roark cannot be in flesh and blood, he is an idea of a free man. An ultimate destination of being free, which is always a mark higher than us.

Here's hoping the makers of the Atlas Shrugged series, do justice to the written word.

Read the article on the series here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Atlas Meets Delhi - Report

The much awaited first Atlas meet in Delhi was quite a memorable affair. It brought together ten enthusiastic voices driven by a common interest, although the backgrounds and the experiences with Ayn Rand were as varied as one could imagine (not to mention an 11th ‘little’ observer, who will perhaps need a decade and a half before he can really contribute to this group!). There were no dissenters, however, and it was agreed, by and large, that the core group should only contain people who have an interest in Rand and her philosophy and would appreciate and contribute to an initiative to spread these ideas further in India.

The Participants
The meeting was conducted between 5-8 pm, in two sessions divided by a little ‘tea and snacks’ break. The participation was slightly different both sides of the interval. In the first part, Vikram, Barun and Amar, playing hosts, were joined by Avinash Mullick, formerly a facilities manager with ICICI bank, Arun Virmani, an architect inspired by Howard Roark, Sharad Joshi, a Rajya Sabha MP (yes, a member of parliament influenced by Ayn Rand!), Poonam Kapoor Vasudeva, a textile designer and a theater person, and Jayant Bhandari from Vancouver, who was passing through Delhi and found this evening an engaging enough prospect. Sharad Joshi left us at the tea break, but his empty chair was more than made up for, as two new participants joined us at that time – Anuradha and Gautam, a software engineer. Both of them have had a long association with Barun and the Liberty Institute, and both are very interested in Ayn Rand’s philosophy (and they were the ones with Rohan, their nine month old son).

The Course Of The Meeting
It took no time for the ice to break and the meeting to gather speed. Much of the discussion, debate and cross-fire along the course of the evening were surrounding the questions – ‘what value can such a group add to the participants?’, and ‘how can Ayn Rand’s ideas be spread further in India?

It all began when, after the introductions, Barun gave the background behind the initiative of the Atlas Meets and set out its objectives. Vikram summed these up as the 3S’s. The first of these is to savor the company of like-minded individuals (what greater goal can there be than the simple pleasure from such an unusual and refreshing evening?). The next is to study Ayn Rand’ books, her philosophy of objectivism and commentary upon it. Also included in this is applying her philosophy to current issues. Third in line is spreading her ideas in India. An alert observation by Sharad Joshi gave us a 4th S – sustaining this group and its efforts in the long-run. Finally we all decided that this was, in fact, the most crucial of all the S’s!

More specifically, several ideas were suggested to actively promote these S’s over the course of these meetings, and even beyond them. Here is a list:

  1. Translations of Ayn Rand’s books into Indian languages.
  2. Actively promoting an understanding of certain excerpts from Ayn Rand’s novels – perhaps even developing video versions of some of the long speeches and monologues from the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged (like the Galt’s speech video already on you tube)
    Reaching out to university students through publicity campaigns and perhaps even talks and lectures.
  3. Identifying the right age group to begin promoting Ayn Rand’s ideas in India
  4. The need to promote the Ayn Rand Institute’s essay contest in India.
  5. Using the medium of bookstores to publicize this group and Ayn Rand’s ideas.
  6. Blog posts and comments applying Ayn Rand’s ideas to current issues.
  7. Applying Ayn Rand’s ideas to public positions, such as the political and economic situation in India.
  8. Writing letters to the editors based on the two points mentioned just above
  9. Applying Ayn Rand’s ideas to personal situations and circumstances
  10. Watching videos and interviews with an objectivist interest
  11. Inviting guests for talks
  12. Starting a study group for those interested in understanding objectivism further
  13. Hosting the play ‘Night Of January 16th’ in Delhi (a couple of us observed that a theater group in Hyderabad had performed this recently)
  14. Identifying famous Indians who can be considered objectivist role-models

Tfinal choice of targets will depend, to a great extent, on the level of interest and initiative that the people seriously involved are willing to show. Identifying this might be the objective of our next meeting... The first of our decisions was, simply, pertaining to the regularity with which this group should meet. We decided that the fourth Saturday of every month represented a time interval and discipline that everyone was very comfortable with.

Chicken Soup For The Soul…
This is what Vikram called it – not the entire meeting, but the first part of the John Galt’s Speech video that we screened just before the snacks break. We all ‘watched’ the powerful words, enhanced by an interesting collage of images, with rapt attention. The entire representation is in 17 parts, and is certainly worth a watch on youtube.

We also screened a short talk given by Yaron Brook, devoted to the reasons why he is optimistic about the influence that Ayn Rand’s ideas might have in America’s future. It gave us a very good idea about the scale of effort that the Ayn Rand Institute is putting in, and the sudden boost in general interest in Ayn Rand’s novels in America. This is available on youtube as well.

Well, this was as much as we could pack into three hours! And has this been a long blog post… I guess it indicates that the meeting was a real tour de force! Vikram has even posted a video on youtube from our meeting.

Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qUiY3bcOPY. Be sure to catch a glimpse!

I, for one, am already looking forward to the next edition of the Atlas Delhi meet planned for the 22nd of August.

- Amar Gujral

Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest 2009

For the past many years, the Ayn Rand Institute has been hosting the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest for college students.

Deadline: Sept 17, 2009
  • FIRST PRIZE: $10,000
  • 3 SECOND PRIZES: $2,000
  • 5 THIRD PRIZES: $1,000
  • 20 FINALISTS: $100

Atlas Shrugged—Topics
Select ONE of the following three topics:
1. Hank Rearden does not apply the same philosophy to his personal life that he applies to his business. In what way does this contradiction harm him psychologically and practically? What is the central error that he makes? How does correcting his error improve his life?

2. In Atlas Shrugged, the heroes want to "make" money while the villains want, on the surface at least, to "have" money. What is the difference between these two views of money? Explain your answer by reference to actual events in the novel.

3. Choose one of the following pairs, and compare and contrast each character's approach to life and basic motivation:
a. Hank Rearden and Francisco d'Anconia
b. Dagny Taggart and Lillian Rearden
c. Eddie Willers and James Taggart Atlas Shrugged—Judging

Essays will be judged on both style and content. Judges will look for writing that is clear, articulate and logically organized. Winning essays must demonstrate an outstanding grasp of the philosophic meaning of Atlas Shrugged.

Essay submissions are evaluated in a fair and unbiased four-round judging process. Judges are individually selected by the Ayn Rand Institute based on a demonstrated knowledge and understanding of Ayn Rand’s works. To ensure the anonymity of our participants, essay cover sheets are removed after the first round. Winners’ names are unknown to judges until after essays have been ranked and the contest results finalized.

For more details, rules and entry details, click here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Atlas Meets Delhi

Calling all those who cherish the ideals that Ayn Rand portrayed in her writings. You are welcome to this meeting in Delhi, on July 25, 2009, at 5 pm, in South Extension Part 1.

For more details, please visit this web page.http://www.aynrand.in/story.aspx?id=2657&pubid=2547

Relevance of Ayn Rand can hardly be lost, but in today's economic and intellectual environment, the ideals of individual liberty she articulated decades ago seem even more appropriate.

Looking forward to meeting you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Free Access to HBL

Some of us might not be aware of "HBL", an email list for Objectivists that is moderated by Harry Binswanger, a leading Objectivist Philosopher.

Recently, to celebrate the Objectivist Conference in Boston, HBL has thrown open it's webpage to non-members for one month. This might be a great opportunity for budding Objectivists to read what other Objectivists the world over are talking about. Here is the message from HBL that gives details of how to access the posts:

HBL (Harry Binswanger List) is an email list for Objectivists moderated by Harry Binswanger, a leading Objectivist Philosopher. For the first time ever, anyone can read HBL online--through the end of July--by going to this site:


and entering OCON as both username and password. Lowercase ("ocon") also works in both the URL and for username and password. So, hurry on over to http://www.hblist.com/ocon and get a free spiritual lunch for the next 4 weeks!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ayn Rand and MJ

I am not an MJ fan. I have grown up listening to him, like any kid anywhere. Like him or dislike him, but you simply cannot ignore him. Even at a time when Mc Donalds was not in India, Michael Jackson was present in many households.

What fascinated me, however, was his constantly changing looks. I would try and find reason as to why a coloured man want to be white? Why would someone who is so strong on the struggles of the coloured, paint himself white? I have many answers, but not one completely justifies this.
Since his death and the media hype, I began this quest to find an answer. I read a lot about him.

My friend is a BIG fan and she was very much affected by MJ's death. Together we listened to his songs, and watched his speeches and read his thoughts. And my fascination only grew. Here was a man, I thought, who was a true hero. He believed in himself so much that nothing else mattered. He loved his work and he did it the best and some more.

I saw many photographs, and one in particular struck me - one where he is standing under the flood lights, his arms wide open, his face upturned, eyes closed, his body taut with expression, I saw for the first time an exalted figure of man! And I wanted to know what Ayn Rand thought of MJ? I wanted to know if my thoughts echoed what she believed in. I googled "Ayn Rand and MJ". I got no search results.

Is it possible that Ayn Rand completely missed out on MJ? I understand that she doesn't have to have a detailed opinion on anything and everything. But, I was disappointed that how could she have possibly missed out someone who epitomises the exaltation? How could she have missed out the creator, the producer, who opened new doors for music?

On the 1st of July, when I searched again, I found two results: one from Atlasphere, and another from a different blog.

Here is what Orit Arfa writes in Atlasphere: "These (pop) songs may not involve complex arrangements that spell out an expansive, philosophical view of man; rather, they give us in the matter of a few minutes a “sense of life,” which Rand defines in The Romantic Manifesto as “a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence.”

I have a few answers with regards to Ayn Rand and MJ. The rest I am free to figure out for myself.