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.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

After Apollo, Now Dionysus Revisited...

In her 1969 lecture Apollo and Dionysus (click here for the lecture), Ayn Rand identified two significant events that happened that year almost simaltaneously, representing two opposing set of ideas with 'fiction-like' perfection. They were the lauch of Apollo 11 (identified as 'Apollo') and the Woodstock rock festival (identified as 'Dionysus'). She identified the former as the end result of an inviolate acceptance of the absolutism of reality, a belief in the efficacy of reason and a heroic dedication to the rational mind. The latter she identified as an irrational, mud splattered, drug induced orgy of dark and savage emotions.

The Woodstock festival represented the zenith of the hipppie culture. As it attained its 40th anniversary last weekend, the Times of India published its tribute on the 14th of August (click here for the TOI article). While the article in the TOI mentions that this music festival was all about 'love', 'peace' and 'idealism', it carefully avoided any further details such as 'love of what?', 'peace for whom?' (certainly not the residents of Bethel who suffered the festival!), and a 'dedication to which ideals?' These are precisely the questions Ayn Rand deals with in her lecture as she exposes the mindless, range-of-the-moment, terror-stricken core of the hippie system of values. The TOI article, as expected, is completely non-judgmental about the matter.

Indians might be interested to know that two famous Indian spiritual leaders spoke at this festival, and Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Allah Rakha, both stalwarts of Indian classical music, even performed. Pandit Ravi Shankar was supposedly apalled by the drug-induced atmosphere, and the irreverant destruction of musical instruments that a couple of the artists indulged in.


  1. Interestingly, in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, commenting on Woodstock their music critic asks "But How Was the Music?" Pretty awful it seems, even by the standards of the pop culture! Read the full article at

  2. I was only 13 when these events took place. I was (and still am) fascinated with the space program, and completely oblivious to Woodstock. I wish that I'd been exposed to Rand back then, as it might have saved me from some terrible stumbling around in what was left of the "hippie" culture, years later. I thank my lucky stars that I did finally discover Rand in 1978, when I was in college.

  3. I was not even in my teens in 1969, and don't remember hearing anything about Woodstock. And the hippies in India, were not really attractive even at that time. But I do remember black and white pictures on newspapers about moon landing, and remember many people looking at the sky at night perhaps in the hope of seeing men walking on the moon! Today, hardly anyone invokes Woodstock as a direction for the future, but more as a nostalgia of the past. While the moon landing continues to inspire many to take those few extra steps in whatever they do.
    Ayn Rand's comments on moon landing is, I think, among the best non-fiction prose she wrote.
    There are two related items on the website.

  4. I do believe that "moon landing" was a big achievement for the man. But I have my reservations about the whole program that made the mission possible being funded by the involuntary tax money.

    I am sure that the private enterprise always has all the incentive and the resources available to fund space missions as part of their research and development projects as and when required by the entrepreneurial spirits and consumer needs.

    Therefore, to borrow the argument from Frederic Bastiat and Henry Hazlitt, what is not seen is all the immediate and more important uses these resources would have been used for at the time, had they not been robbed away from individuals and businesses in the form of taxation.

  5. Clearly, it is not necessary for the state to monopolise space exploration. And technology and private resources are increasingly being invested in space related technologies.
    In the past, monarchs used to sanction and fund sea exploration or trade routes. Today, governments sanction space exploration.
    And as in the past, the role of the government would only shrink, as private players expand their role.
    Ed Hudgins of The Atlas Society, writes on the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 mission, "entrepreneurs are creating the infrastructure that will make us a space-faring civilization and should provide the paths back to the Moon and onto Mars", writes Edward Hudgins in The Atlas Society.