Who is John Galt? RTFN.

LK Writing

photo credit: Emily Gan

As I write this, I am wearing an article of Lululemon clothing I purchased 8 years ago.  Did I spend twice what I pay for other brands? Yes. But, Lulu’s product has lasted 4 times as long. Maybe reading Atlas Shrugged helped Chip Wilson make boxer briefs this good. If so, I thank both him and Ayn Rand from the bottom of my well-ventilated nutsack.

It has been quite the spectacle the past few weeks, observing the widespread reaction to Wilson’s decision to put four provocative words on Lululemon’s ubiquitous shopping bags. So far, I have not seen a single article, comment or quote referencing Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged or Objectivism that reflects even a rudimentary understanding of the fundamental ideas that they represent.

Aside from being a satisfied Lulu customer, I’ve been following this story with keen interest because of two facts: I’m both a yoga educator, and a publicly declared Objectivist of long standing.  If I were to evaluate these two facts on the basis of the general response to the “Galt” kerfuffle, I’d have to judge them to be incompatible.  Fortunately, I do not make judgements based on public opinion.

I have read Atlas Shrugged five times, Fountainhead four times, and all of Ayn Rand’s non-fiction. As far as her more formal work on philosophy is concerned, I have had the privilege of personally studying with two of the top Objectivist scholars in the world.  I have been contemplating and applying Rand’s ideas in every area of my life and career for four decades, and I’m well aware of the hard work it’s taken to forge a consistent world view in which the principles of Yoga are compatible with those of Objectivism.  It wasn’t easy, but I did it, and I owe whatever success I’ve had in my life to the effort I put in.

If you have made a similar effort to forge a consistent philosophy for yourself and have something RATIONAL to say about this issue, I’d love to hear from you.

However, if you wish to comment about “Who is John Galt,” I’ll give you the same advice issued by frustrated tech support when they are repeatedly assaulted with stupid questions that have already been answered by the people who have taken the trouble to write the operating instructions: “RTFM – Read The Fucking Manual.”

What I’m suggesting is that there is a very well-written manual for addressing all the injustices that both the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party are protesting.  It is called “Atlas Shrugged.”  So, before you bitch and moan about how society isn’t working for you, I suggest you “RTFN – Read The F-ing Novel.”

Then, we’ll talk.

43 thoughts on “Who is John Galt? RTFN.

  1. would you care to comment further on where the dichotomy between a yogic life-style and objectivism lies? surely they are compatible and complementary in that with both we seek to discover the ‘what is’ (overcoming avidya and the search for objective reality), individual rights and self-interest per the yamas and niyamas, etc.

    and if you have advice on how to get thru that turgid monolithic speech at the end os a.s., well… let’s say that 2 outta 3 ain’t bad

    • The way to “get thru that turgid monolithic speech at the end os a.s” is to focus on the words as you read them, and to think about their meaning. It is either a very long turgid speech, or a very concise treatise on a practical philosophy for living on earth. It all depends on your frame of reference, and underlying value system.

      There is no actual dichotomy between Yoga and Objectivisim. There are many perceived dichotomies. It all depends on whether you focus on Rand’s words as you read them, and think about their meaning.

  2. Thanks so much, Leslie!! I have not RTFN, BUT I am a Lulu yoga ambassador and I love that their clothing fits great, is awesome for teaching alignment-based yoga, and their tops are boob discretionary so everything isn’t falling out or on display during demos. I still remember yoga clothes in the early 90s…my horrible champion jog bra and sweatpants that stuck all over my legs during standing poses. Never again! Lulu makes a great product that doesn’t fall apart plus they support the yoga/running/dance community and are a bunch of hard-working, focused, athletic, fun people. Now off to RTFN.

  3. Leslie,
    It is refreshing to read a Galtgate response that *isn’t* just more bourgeois, soft-liberal goo. But if you have studied so much Objectivism, shouldn’t the outcome be more than an acid sense of They-Don’t-Get-It? John and Howard would ACT. This doesn’t mean reciting a resume; it means rendering a clear objective.

    I’ve read the novel, but I haven’t really understood it the way you claim to. To me, it’s an anti-Leninist science fiction cartoon. If I had understood it, I would be able to say in a single paragraph what it means for how I should then live. But rather, all I take from it is the idea that I should hold myself up above society and make periodic speeches. I WANT there to be more actionable philosophy in there – more than some emotions and beliefs.

    WWJGD? What would John Galt DO?

    • At least you’re honest in admitting that you didn’t get the ideas, which is abundantly clear if you view the novel as “an anti-Leninist science fiction cartoon.”

  4. I appreciate your viewpoint and candidness regarding you philosophical beliefs. When I first read the Fountainhead, some of the themes and viewpoints within the novel did resonate with my own innate beliefs. As I studied Ayn Rand more closely, however, I discovered that much of her own personal philosophies really did not correlate with my own, especially in regards to the economic structures of society. While she hits on some really core ideals in her novels, I cannot believe in her “utopia.” I am a Pragmatist.

    Perhaps the strong reaction from people in regard to Lululemon and The Rand philosophy hasmuch to do with the way the philosophy has been embraced by a certain segment of the privileged class? Largely, it has morphed into some sort of Capitalist Fanaticism. I have no desire to give big corporations carte blanche or individual rights and freedoms, nor do I believe that trickle down economics work. I don’t trust that a corporation has my individual well being in mind.

    As for Lululemon–I am sure it is really excellent, though I personally have never been in the position to splurge. I actually have a pair of Old Navy yoga pants that are about 8 years old, that I still practice in and are in pretty good shape. The question is, would Ayn Rand, wear Lululemon? Cigarette dangling and yoga mat in tow? It is a funny image. Namaste

  5. I just wanted to pass along this link, in case any of your readers wanted to explore Objectivism a little. http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_intro

  6. Leslie,
    I’ve read Atlas Shrugged 3 times and Fountainhead twice and also the rest of the Ayn Rand books. She is my philosopher in life whom I’ve really admired.. Such and intelligent, open-minded and honest way of thinking she has.. And all the people that easily brand her with ‘capitalism’ or ‘anti-Leninism’ is unfortunately too shallow that they miss a whole philosophy about life and what it is to be a human in various aspects…
    I’ve very recently started practicing yoga and also I’m taking online anatomy course of yours and the more I’ve started reading about Sutras, etc I was recently started thinking about whether these TWO may unite for me one day….
    This article of yours made me feel great because I now know that some people also search for the same path…. Thank you…
    Love with pure light..
    melis

  7. I’m just not on board with objectivist politics. I think public education, labor unions, child labor laws, some sort of public health care system are good things, especially given the social forces that determine access to opportunity. We need only look at who populates the prison system to see how her philosophy breaks down. That, and that many of the present-day wealthy do not see it in their best interests to educate the larger public so that we can have a society where there is equal access to resources. They want to keep them for themselves, which in her system, is just fine. Whether you like AS or the Foutainhead or not, her view of humanity is dim. In her interview with Mike Wallace she states that the weak/sick should be allowed to perish. We should not be obligated to help anyone else unless it serves our own self-interest and pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t seem to, especially given the attitude of those present at the recent republican debates. I think she and her followers are historical revisionists, especially when looking at the roots of inequality and the causes of the great depression. I could see how one could embrace her philosophy based purely on her view of how we perceive reality –in her words, an Aristotelian perspective; but the logical leap she makes in economic philosophy is highly questionable. She very obviously a product of disenchantment with the soviet system, and throws the baby out with the bath water IMHO. I wouldn’t want to live in a world of her design. The movement towards neoliberalism has caused all sorts of social and environmental degradation, all in the name of the pursuit of rational self-interest…. I guess that’s my objection to Rand and her work. Good for you for being able to make her philosophy fit with your understanding of yoga philosophy. I think she is a false prophet that those in power today, or rather those seeking it, have latched onto and taken bits and pieces of her work to satisfy their own greedy ends. But, that’s just my opinion. I applaud you Leslie for being willing to take a stand, however objectionable others may find it.

    • “In her interview with Mike Wallace she states that the weak/sick should be allowed to perish.”
      If you are referring to the 1959 T.V. interview, you are wrong. She never said any such thing. Here’s the link to Part 1: http://youtu.be/7ukJiBZ8_4k

      If there is another Wallace interview to which you refer, I’d appreciate learning of it.

      “The movement towards neoliberalism has caused all sorts of social and environmental degradation, all in the name of the pursuit of rational self-interest….”
      What on earth are you referring to? Who are these neo-liberals, what movement do they represent, and when have they explicitly stated that they are perusing rational self-interest?

  8. indeed. in three reads thru the book i’ve only been able to manage that speech twice. perhaps it’s too concise. that said, i would really like to read your thoughts on the actual vs perceived dichotomies / harmonies.

    • Why are you being clever about this, Leslie? Does just talking objectivism lead you to assume a stranger out here is stupid? I could try to compete with your list of intellectual credentials, but that would not aid my attempts to LEARN something from you on this topic.

      I remain dumbstruck that someone of your level of study could imagine that Rand’s belief system applies to a world beyond the one she invented in her head.

      We all know what Objectivism would say to OWS: Greenspan, the most notorious objectivist, tells us that financial crises such as Sub-Prime are the result of a few traders not being true to their ethics. Talk about a fantasy world. C’mon, Arjuna, give me something I can work with.

      I would submit that yoga equips us to be in the world as it is. Not as if it’s some drama from an imagined past or parallel universe.

      And it equips to be in the world as WE are. Not as if we are creative-genius outsiders whose true purpose is pure, unencumbered, self-expression. There are many maps of enlightenment out there, but I’d say that’s one we can toss into, ahem, the dustbin of history.

      • I would just add that the critique of the lenninism-cartoon comment could use a bit more consideration. Rand was explicitly anti-lenninist in her political intentions (focus on the individual/iconoclast vs. the threat of collectivism). The reference to a “cartoon” is possibly a clever reference to the lead character in Fountainhead (as in an architects “cartoon”, not the comic strip kind…)

        The reaction in the Yoga community to the “galt” issue probably relates to the political dynamics surrounding Rand, rather than her “philosophy”–what she called “objectivism” is commonly seen as a challenge to “collectivist” or socialist thought. Her work has long served as a rallying cry for conservative and libertarian political leaders, which is probably not the dominant political value structure held by many Western Yoga students.

        Personally, I will use my time to read the 2nd Edition of Yoga Anatomy before I bother cracking Atlas Shrugged again…

      • First of all, Greenspan was NOT an Objectivist, his prior association with Miss Rand notwithstanding. Anyone who truly embraced laissez faire capitalism would never become head of the Fed, unless it was to dismantle it.

        Secondly, how would you or anyone know what Objectivism would say about anything, unless you’ve studied it? It’s clear from your comments that you haven’t. Read the source material, then you can comment informed by something other than vague and erroneous assumptions. In other words, RTFN.

  9. Leslie, you are a very fucked up person and should not be teaching yoga to anyone. Maybe your “Objectivism” explains why your courses are so damn expensive that only other petty bougies like you can take them and pretend to be yogis.

    • This is my all-time favorite response to anything I have ever posted. Thank you for being you.

      BTW, I guess this means you’re not going to request a scholarship to my course? We give them away all the time. Too bad – I’d love to have your energy in class.

      You see, that’s the way voluntary charity works…you charge what the market will bear to the paying customers, and then give it away to those who are sincerely in need. This is in contrast to involuntary charity – otherwise known as taxation-funded welfare statism.

  10. Thanks for weighing in. As the author of the post that you linked to here, I appreciate the dialog.

    I do, however, have a very different perspective on what’s at stake in this debate. If you’re interested, I explain it in response to your comment (which replicates your post here) on my original EJ blog. Just go to the end of the second page of comments and you’ll find it in the “reply” to yours (http://yogamodern.com/categories/women-in-yoga-celebration-and-critique/).

    It would be interesting to hear more about how you’ve reconciled your yogic and Objectivist commitments. Peace.

  11. I don’t know much about Rand, nor am I motivated by her. I read her in high school and it just didn’t impress, but in her defense, I have seriously adolescent tastes in fiction. I might have to RTFN just to better understand you though, which strikes me as more interesting. My question would be, if you care to cajole…what does Rand have to offer that Reason and Science more generally do not already offer? My personal philosophy is founded on evolutionary theory, cognitive psychology and all things related to brain science, psychology included. And Kung Fu, of course (Imagine a love child born of Richard Dawkins and Bruce Lee :) My love of yoga stems from a larger desire to understand myself and my place in this world. Introspection has it’s limits, as does Reason. I think we need both. I have found few yogis (or rationalists) who mix the two, so I don’t even know how to have this conversation. I’m used to playing by myself.

  12. Whoops – I accidentally linked to the wrong post – sorry about that! Here we go:
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/11/shopping-right-wing-lululemons-political-values/

    thanks again

  13. Well I didn’t RTFN I listened to TFN :). I think the relevant difference to listening is that sometimes the audio can continue when you are not necessarily registering. It was a 62 hour (50 CD’s) expense of time.

    Considering the time setting it was written I would believe that an anti-communism message would be hard not to include, as was referenced several times by disparaging the slogan “‘From each according to their ability, too each according to their need”.

    I would also endorse the Science Fiction mentioned earlier, since a motor that could run on Static Electricity and do what was supposed in the novel would violate the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, and the strength and lightness of Reardon Metal was overly optimistic. But she did write a novel and creative license was her prerogative.

    I didn’t see how a cartoon could be linked in though.

    With that said, I did enjoy the main thrust of the Novel. I got the point of the speeches by about 30 seconds, so I think a case could be argued for brevity. Perhaps she would have written Atlas Shrugged in 20 years if she had tried to do that.

    I did find her characters impossibly simplistic. James Taggart fit neatly into the role of bad guy, Dagny fit easily into Heroine and I think that leads to some idealism that just does not seem realistic. I had to question Dagny’s bed hopping in the novel, I wonder if that really was an alter ego of Rand’s. The novel seems to leave only 3 personality types to fill. Thinker, Anti-Thinker, and Cogs in the wheels of the machinery.

    The question that keeps coming to me after review is somewhat related to the relevance in neuroscience. Who is the owner of those thoughts. We love to believe we are the sole instigator of our motivations, that it was our own superior skill and insight that yields our success, but we come from a privileged position in our culture to be able to say that. A bit of improper nutrition at the right time in the womb and we are doomed. Does that mean there would be a profit centered private corporation that would address the need for adequate nutrition in at risk teen mothers? I find that hard to believe. I am all for government minimalism but I think casting government and regulation as carte blanc evil just doesn’t cut it. We need checks and balances in private and government institutions. And over time it will just get more complex. The dreamers who always hope for annihilation of a certain faction in human civilization will simply always be waiting. No different then Christians waiting for The Return.

    How do we make sense of the fact that someone with a slightly smaller Amygdala may not be able to feel empathy. What if this makes them a more rugged individualist? What if this is a source for their compulsion to commit a crime? (I’m not equating the two)

    I’ve definitely not spent as much time as you thinking about it, but those are some of mine thus far.

    And thanks for posting a Yoga article with the phrase “Well ventilated Nutsack” in it. :)

  14. I have to admit coming rather late to the game here, and so when you claim success at forging “a consistent world view in which the principles of Yoga are compatible with those of Objectivism,” I don’t know where to look to verify that. I am not so much interested in arguing over whether I understand Rand’s philosophy (any criticism seems to be met with a rather belligerent “You’re wrong — go read it again!”).

    The more interesting and relevant question is just what YOU think “the principles of Yoga” are — such that you see your interpretation of Objectivism is compatible with them. And yes, yours is an interpretation too, just as the charge of ‘anti-Leninist cartoon’ is based upon an interpretation. Rand’s books are not mathematics textbooks, and so they only lend themselves to interpretation — there is no ‘objective’ rendering of what she was saying, or of its meaning and significance. So you’re on shaky ground when you declare others to be ‘wrong’ or argue that they just don’t understand what she was saying.

    And by the way, who cares? Rand’s work has been chewed over for decades; the interesting thing is to find out what YOU think — i.e. the substance of what you claim to have achieved in merging objectivism with yoga — which is the one thing I definitely WON’T divine by going back to read her books.

    And along those lines, along with the summary of the meeting points between the two philosophies, it would be nice to know what your conception of your own ‘success’ is, such that you owe it to objectivist principles applied to a career in yoga education — and ostensibly a life that includes some form of practice of yoga for its own sake. Financial success? (and what income level can be regarded as ‘successful?’) Moral evolution? Satisfaction in relationships? Spiritual illumination?

    Now that would be an illuminating — and hopefully interesting — conversation, one that cannot be reduced to ‘RTFM.’

    Side point: what do you think the upside to your post — and its tone — is, apart from getting attention? With the accompanying picture, you come off as closer in spirit to the Unabomber than to Shankaracharya.

    • I have to admit coming rather late to the game here, and so when you claim success at forging “a consistent world view in which the principles of Yoga are compatible with those of Objectivism,” I don’t know where to look to verify that.

      You just had to ask. I’ve been waiting for a rational, thoughtful comment like yours that would prompt me to write further, so thank you.

      I am not so much interested in arguing over whether I understand Rand’s philosophy (any criticism seems to be met with a rather belligerent “You’re wrong — go read it again!”).

      Please don’t mistake certainty for belligerence. I have very little patience for people who take their own emotional reactions as reality. I am aware that Ayn Rand provokes extreme reactions from people, but there is a difference between reacting to what she actually said or wrote, and reacting to other people’s reactions to her. The vast majority of comments I get are of the latter type. One of the useful things Rand pointed out is that “emotions are not tools of cognition.” Emotions tell us how we’re responding to the facts of reality, but nothing about the reality itself. This is also a key principle of Patanjali’s yoga.

      The more interesting and relevant question is just what YOU think “the principles of Yoga” are — such that you see your interpretation of Objectivism is compatible with them. And yes, yours is an interpretation too, just as the charge of ‘anti-Leninist cartoon’ is based upon an interpretation. Rand’s books are not mathematics textbooks, and so they only lend themselves to interpretation — there is no ‘objective’ rendering of what she was saying, or of its meaning and significance. So you’re on shaky ground when you declare others to be ‘wrong’ or argue that they just don’t understand what she was saying.

      You are mistaken. She named her philosophy “Objectivism” for a reason. Just as Patanjali asserts that it is possible to perceive reality directly, so does Rand. If you haven’t read her work on epistemology, then I respectfully suggest that you’re the one on shaky ground in making the above assertion. Reality exists independently of our interpretation, and it’s possible to know the truth of things. What pisses people off about this is that it implies the necessity of certain ideas actually being right and wrong. The “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” evasion doesn’t hold up.

      And by the way, who cares? Rand’s work has been chewed over for decades; the interesting thing is to find out what YOU think — i.e. the substance of what you claim to have achieved in merging objectivism with yoga — which is the one thing I definitely WON’T divine by going back to read her books.

      The key for me was in really understanding something that my teacher is very clear about: Yoga is not Hinduism/Vedanta. You can see his direct words in this interview I conducted with him in 1992.
      When you take religion out of the picture, and consider yoga as a distinct darshana with its own unique metaphysics, what you are left with is a pretty atheistic set of teachings that are intended to bring the mind to a state of direct perception and ultimate clarity. Pretty much the same as in Objectivism.

      I would even say that Ayn Rand goes one step further than Yoga by insisting that the duality of mind and body (purusha and prakriti) are non-existent in her famous refutation of the soul-body dichotomy: “You are an indivisible entity of matter and consciousness. Renounce your consciousness and you become a brute. Renounce your body and you become a fake. Renounce the material world and you surrender it to evil….”

      And along those lines, along with the summary of the meeting points between the two philosophies, it would be nice to know what your conception of your own ‘success’ is, such that you owe it to objectivist principles applied to a career in yoga education — and ostensibly a life that includes some form of practice of yoga for its own sake. Financial success? (and what income level can be regarded as ‘successful?’) Moral evolution? Satisfaction in relationships? Spiritual illumination? Now that would be an illuminating — and hopefully interesting — conversation, one that cannot be reduced to ‘RTFM.’

      Yes, all of the above. As to what income level can be regarded as successful, allow me to simply point out that I have enough free time on my hands to invest in typing this reply. This question actually requires the least amount of conversation. My life – and the way I’m living it – IS the answer….and it’s all pretty much an open book. Speaking of books, I am in the process of writing one that answers all these questions in great detail, so stay tuned.

      Side point: what do you think the upside to your post — and its tone — is, apart from getting attention? With the accompanying picture, you come off as closer in spirit to the Unabomber than to Shankaracharya.

      The upside is that it allows me to interact with people like you, because the tone of the piece sets the bar a bit higher than most blogs. You don’t get to see the hate-filled comments I’ve had to spam. If I’m pissing off those people, and motivating you to write, I know I’m doing my job.

      As far as the picture goes, I would never have Shankaracharya (or any religious figure) as a role model. My “unabomber” expression was actually me mugging for the photographer. I thought it was kind of cute, and matched the challenging tone of the piece quite well.

  15. Aahhh certainty. We certainly have no shortage of it these days, especially in the blogosphere. And nothing spells certainty like the f-bomb.

    I’m certainly sympathetic with regard to the kinds of comments you have to deal with (esp the hostile ones) that the mere mention of Ayn Rand’s philosophy likely draws. But you’re a smart man, and you won’t mind if I tease you a bit, if only to tease more out of you.

    On a number of points, I’ll defer to a professor of mine from years past who often smiled impishly and replied “Point granted, but not conceded.”

    With regard to interpretation, I’ll certainly grant that there is a reality that exists independently of our interpretation. But not concede that I’m on shaky ground on the issue of interpretation.

    I was specifically referring to the interpretation of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, which apart from the physical reality of the book itself — the binding, pages etc. (or pixels on the screen of an e-book), is a ‘reality’ unlike other physical realities like rocks and trees and honey bees that stubbornly resist wholesale ‘interpretation.’

    Her works — including her talks — consist of words which have meaning for the speaker as well as the listener. And the two ‘meanings’ granted by speaker and listener are rarely — and never necessarily — the same. As any linguistic philosopher contemporary with Rand would point out, can you with certainty say that the meaning you give to your words is the same that your listener does — and can you dictate the meaning, any more than an artist can dictate the meaning of his work — even when his work is an independent, concrete physical reality? It’s precisely because you can’t that we have a conversation.

    Did Ayn Rand’s epistemology include an epistemology for verifying the truth and finality of (your) interpretation of the meaning of Ayn Rand’s epistemology? That would be cool.

    But the fact that ‘certain ideas’ can actually be right or wrong does not mean that all ideas are similarly ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the same way — especially when it comes to interpretive conclusions drawn from a philosophy. That’s the limitation of all epistemology — and even Patanjali’s epistemology had more to say about the ways in which we can get perception ‘wrong’ than the ways in which we can get it right — and objective perception of reality usually ends up ‘right’ about only the barest of ‘facts.’

    So far as you regard Ayn Rand’s philosophy to be ‘true’ (perhaps even definitive of ‘truth’), the significant question of meaning has to do with specifically how it influences your behavior (which includes goals).

    I can certainly read all of the Ayn Rand works you recommend — but no matter how many times I read them and no matter how many lectures on them I attend, can you guarantee that I would arrive at the same meaning that you do, especially measured in terms of my own personal behavior?

    And can you guarantee that the meaning you give to Rand’s philosophy is such that I will (and must) eventually arrive at the same meaning that you do, if I read it enough times? If I disagree, then does it really mean I just have to go back and read it again until I arrive at the same conclusions and meaning (in terms of consequences or specific guidance for behavior) that you do? Is the truth of her philosophy truly that ‘objective’?

    Yoga is certainly not Hinduism/Vedanta — point granted, especially so far as yoga has been defined in various practical terms as ‘union’ in the sense of a joining of awareness, or concentration. There are a number of philosophies associated with yoga, and philosophies provide the context (including statements about objective truth) which gives meaning to the practice of yoga. And the practice itself is indeed spirituality-neutral.

    One could certainly argue that Patanjali was either agnostic or atheistic (Ishwara was a particular highly evolved Purusha by his own definition, not the ‘Brahman’ of Vedanta). Certainly Samkhya was essentially atheistic.

    But a practice that is essentially spirituality-neutral is not necessarily atheistic. And Samkhya/Patanjali’s yoga is not necessarily THE philosophy that states the ultimate meaning of yoga; the Katha Upanishad also gives its definition of yoga, putting the practice in the context of the larger questions of meaning (and in the process takes an inward step away from the religious ritualism of the Vedas). The choice of an atheistic philosophy of yoga (and the ‘atheism’ of these philosophies is also a matter of interpretation) over others is a selective choice that is convenient to your point of view. But not one ultimately or definitively grounded in objective reality.

    Moreover, even if yoga is ultimately and definitively atheistic, you then say that Ayn Rand goes one step further by undercutting its foundational dualism of mind and body, purusha and prakriti.

    So you’re simultaneously adopting and refuting ‘yoga.’ If you define yoga in terms of that philosophy and then refute (or reject) one of its foundational principles, then in what sense are you talking about yoga any more?

    Unless of course — purely as a practice — yoga is indeed neutral on such questions in and of itself. In which case, your association of ‘yoga’ with statements of meaning such as “You are an indivisible entity of matter and consciousness. Renounce your consciousness and you become a brute. Renounce your body and you become a fake. Renounce the material world and you surrender it to evil….” is certainly one possibility, but certainly not definitive of ‘yoga’ itself. (By the way, those words from Rand are not exactly objective statements that admit empirical verification, ‘objectivism’ or no. How or in what sense might I ‘renounce my body’ (apart from death) and then determine how ‘fake’ I am as a result?)

    So far it seems that your merging of ‘yoga’ with Rand’s philosophy is only possible if you so narrow the definition of yoga (including foundational ideas such as statements as to the objective realities of purusha-prakriti) that you can pour Ayn Rand’s philosophy into it, and claim a successful marriage.
    It’s certainly possible to do so, and you can mount an impressive argument, but we can take it or leave it, and contrary to what objectivism suggests about the direct perception of reality, nothing necessitates that we accept the ultimate truth or rightness of your thesis, or find the same meaning in it.

    With regard to your definition of ‘success,’ if you define it according to the opportunity for leisure, you’re certainly in agreement with Aristotle, but you’ve set the bar pretty low. Considering the number of people now granted with the time to type their commentaries and opinions on blogs due to unemployment, we must be entering a time of unprecedented success in our culture and economy.

    I kid, of course. You’re right that your life and the way you live it IS your answer — and it will be interesting to see how you credit the most valuable and meaningful aspects of your life (and your success in those areas) specifically to the defining principles of Rand’s philosophy (and of course the defining principles of yoga, absent those with which you or Rand disagree). Many people follow different philosophies from hers and yet find sufficient leisure to express their own thoughts, and find success in their own lives in ways that are meaningful to them. Some of them even do yoga. So what then is the compelling truth of Rand’s philosophy? It will be interesting to hear your thoughtful answer, which I know would take more than a blog entry. You’re fully justified in plugging your book here.

    BTW I do understand the mugging for the photo — but I can’t resist ribbing you, just the same.

    (And apart from being a ‘religious figure,’ Shankaracharya was a rigorous philosopher (just one example) who was able to take on the objectivism of his day on its own terms. He was a worthy model of clear thinking and sharp dialectic, even if you disagreed with him.)

    • This is relevant:

      http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/153454/how_ayn_rand_seduced_generations_of_young_men_and_helped_make_the_u.s._into_a_selfish,_greedy_nation/?page=1

      Would Rand’s philosophy do the same wonderful things for yoga?

  16. well said. good idea, RTFM!
    same RDFM in my oppinion- goes to the Yoga Sutra as well….if people were to actually READ it, without automatically referring to the comentators-
    much prejudice and misleading would not have occured.
    see you sometimes, LK…..
    gilli harouvi

  17. Hey Leslie et all,

    Nice to see you active again. Enjoyed our time together in 2009 in NYC. (Dutch guy with very ‘interesting’ double athrodesis feet.)

    I love science and scientific research. I am a big proponent of that. Within more scientific minded circles I am that weird yoga/meditation dude and within yoga/meditation circles that Skeptic dude. It is a fun role to have :-).

    I did a quick cursory reading of some online ‘objectivism’ information. This is not thorough so your comments on go and read are still valid.

    That being said, one of the things that I have found very interesting in recent scientific research is that we do not act rationally. The social (economical) psychologist has done some researh and he calls us predictably irrational.
    Now I agree we should try and act as rationally as possible. This is definitely some research to look into. He has some excellent TED talks that are a good introduction. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/dan_ariely_asks_are_we_in_control_of_our_own_decisions.html

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/dan_ariely_beware_conflicts_of_interest.html

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/dan_ariely_on_our_buggy_moral_code.html

    But if we know most people in society don’t, how do we set up that society. Again Ayn Rand may very well discuss this. So I should go off and read that. If you could point me in that direction I would be very grateful.

    Thanks!

    • I mean *deal* in absolutes. (yes , this is a glib comment)

      The only certainty that exists is that there is NO certainty. Anyone who has travelled through life for any amount of time could probably ascertain that. (yes, there is death and taxes, but I mean everything else)

      No system, economic, political or otherwise exists in a vaccum. No system, including ones based on Rand’s ideas can exist in the ideal form, unless everything else falls into place. (Communism is an excellent example; True communism can/could never exist without universal communism.) Until humanity can transcend it’s greed, lust for power, anger, violence, etc.,on both the individual and collective level, the systems we imagine to be “the way”, the “ideal”, and/or the “certain path”, will eventually be corrupted.

      To challenge oneself to be the best one can be, to live with a creative spirit, unfettered by society and other governing forces is a beautiful thing. It does not require an objectivist philosophy.

      • “The only certainty that exists is that there is NO certainty.”

        You seem very certain of this. It seems you’ve never heard of the logical fallacy of “reaffirmation through denial.”. Look it up.

        • Bernard Lonergan’s book ‘Insight’ pointed out that every system of thought runs up against something that cannot be handled from within that system of thought — such as negative numbers, irrationals and so on within mathematics. Nor can any system establish its validity from within itself. It is through a leap of insight (like ‘Spanda’ within tantric systems) that we jump outside of the system to handle the challenges that the previous system could not — hence the development of algebra, trigonometry, calculus and so on. The same within the sphere of ethical and philosophical thought, which evolve not through static concepts or ideas, but through insight — which sees through and beyond the limitations of concepts and ideas.

          No system is an absolute unto itself, nor can it answer all of the questions and conundrums generated from its own principles. Every system is a Procrustean Bed (look it up) — including objectivism.

          It is through systems of thought that we evolve in our thought — but it is through the nature of consciousness and insight itself that they all prove to be insufficient and ultimately get left behind, or incorporated into more inclusive and insightful systems of thought.

          If you want the Absolute, look within — where it reveals itself through Consciousness, AS consciousness, but only progressively. The moment you think you’ve ‘got it,’ you don’t.

  18. Let’s not get lost in the Ayn Rand discussion too far. “There are more things in heaven and earth (Horatio), than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” is the quote that comes to mind with regard to Rand and any fabricated system or ‘ism.’ I think it’s important that a company’s ethics are in order, no matter whether they sell Yoga gear, or coffee beans. Lululemon’s ethics, or seeming lack thereof at certain times, for me, trumps that the clothes may well-made and look good. Refer to recent Huffington Post article:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stewart-j-lawrence/when-yogis-kill-the-grisl_b_1077457.html

    • …and what ideology permits you to make a judgment about any “fabricated system or ‘ism.’ ?
      Did you fabricate your point of view, adopt it from somewhere else, or did it somehow naturally, spontaneously arise in your mind?

  19. It’s not an ideology, sir, just an opinion. That’s what blog-sphere is for, no? As a Yogi, and an as-best-I-can follower of Yamas & Niyamas, and the daughter of a Civil Rights activist, what I’m more interested in is whether a company comes by their profits honestly, and without harming others, and takes care of their employees who turn out their products earning great profit for its CEO’s and shareholders. Did you read the article?

  20. Given your interests, you might enjoy my book The Tao of Roark — http://tao-of-roark.com/

  21. Great post! Humerous and true! To me Atlas Shrugged is about quality and effort. There are some aspects of Ayn’s philosophy that I disagree with but overall that message stands out to me years after I have read the book.

  22. Wow, Leslie, you actually got me reading! I’d like to know what this whole discussion really is about, so I working my way through Atlas Shrugged now… Even went to a screening of that new documentary Ayn Rand – The Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged.
    So far, I haven’t formed an opinion about it yet, still reading and discussing it with various people. Interesting stuff.

  23. What a treat to see this article. You are so right about Ayn Rand.

    (I’ve got you beat on the number of times I’ve read Ayn Rand’s works, but not by much. You can catch up!)

    • …and what a treat to see a familiar name from HBL on my own blog. When I first started e-Sutra as a list on AOL in 1998, HBL was my inspiration.

  24. I actually laughed out loud when I saw this…in a good way. When I tell people I have read Atlas Shrugged, and enjoyed it, they look at me as though I am some crazy person trying to destroy their “liberal ideas.” I should mention I go to a liberal arts school in Eastern Canada, but am from Alberta so they try to pin me as a capitalist conservative. I just tell them to read it with an open mind, and really think about what Ayn Rand is saying. Great post!

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