I have grown up on a diet of hard-core objectivity, rationality and logic. I believe (believed?) that these suffice and necessarily explain all phenomena in the world. Most of the current political and economic systems also advocate the same -libertarianism and free-market economics, most prominent of those. When I read Ayn Rand the first time, I was blown over by her celebration of the human mind, objectivism and the glory she places on rationality. It read and sounded right in my head. But, on some level, I distinctly felt uncomfortable with her thoughts. They appeared to be devolving the importance of each individual as a human being with thoughts, emotions and beliefs of his own. I dismissed them at that time because the views on objectivism sat very well with my learning so far.
Over the past few months, I have had debates with my cousin on science being the basis of explanation for everything, with my best friend on free-markets and with my parents on the existence of God. I have had debates with myself on all of these. Yes, I am confused because rationally my mind supports the objective view but on an emotional level, I can sense I am wrong. To hold an objective view is to not only hold a simplistic view, but to view the world with a narrow view. Let me quote an example – Driving on Bangalore roads can offer you sights of other people blatantly jumping signals, jumping lanes and cutting across other vehicles. When I view this rationally, I view the offender as doing something wrong. In turn, I get annoyed because I feel I am getting a raw deal because of the offender, the cops, the traffic system and the whole world, in short. This either leads me to getting angry or repressing my anger, both of which are bad in the long term. The reason I am unhappy is because I am viewing the world as an outsider. I view the entire system as an impartial observer, say like an examiner in an exam hall. Now, rationally this appears right because I am right in saying that rules are being broken and it is all unfair. But, the error lies in assuming myself in the role of an impartial observer. I am not. I am a participant in this system, in this biosphere and I have a stake.
Instead, if I rather accept that world is an imperfect place and I have to do whatever I find myself happy, I will begin to view the traffic situation, the city, the people and the whole world as a happy place. It might seem too cliched and a godman-like statement, but I believe it is very true. Also, though this seems a very trivial conclusion, it is not internalized easily. I remember one of the things my friend said when I was fined by the cops. She told me – “The one good thing about this is that now you are a part of the system. This means, you can stop complaining about how screwed-up the system is and instead, have to make it change.” I laughed it off then but I understand what she meant now. I am still trying to come to terms with it and one of the reasons of writing all this down is to really voice what I think about objectivism.
I call it the curse of objectivism because objectivism is not to be dismissed altogether. In almost all of your workplaces, you will need to be objective to succeed at your jobs. But, dissatisfaction ensues when you try and extend the view to everything else in your life. That in itself now sounds wrong to me. When it is your life, you cannot be objective. You yourself are the life, so how can you be an impartial objective viewer? The challenge with life, at least for me now, is to accept it with all its imperfections, warts and spots. I cannot do this if I am rational about it because I will have myself passing judgments and drawing conclusions about my life. Doing that would be morbid.
Call it coincidence, but one of my recent favourie web-authors, Steve Pavlina wrote about this yesterday, just when all these thoughts were running in my head. He has written a beautiful essay on the view to assume when you deal with relationships. For me personally, being rationally-minded has translated to holding rigid, stubborn views on the world and having a mind that is unwelcome to influences. It has meant that I have stopped growing and evolving. It is not a happy state to be in and hence, I have to change. This radical change in my world-view is a huge leap of faith to take, but it is about time I begin now.
PS: Do you know any truly happy Libertanian?