Romanticism in Everyday Life
by Robert James Bidinotto
First delivered as a lecture at the IOS Summer Seminar, University of Colorado, Boulder, July 10, 1998. Copyright 1998 by Robert James Bidinotto. All rights reserved. This essay may not be reproduced or circulated in any medium or form.
"I believe," Ayn Rand wrote in her Journals, "…that the worst curse on mankind is the ability to consider ideals as something quite abstract and detached from one's everyday life." (Journals of Ayn Rand [JAR] 66)
Of all the things that made Ayn Rand's ethical viewpoint so distinctive, it was her passionate devotion to this view. She made it the leitmotif of her literary heroines, giving to Kira Argounova of We the Living "her hunger for practical beauty, for dreams and reality united" (JAR 60) -- and sharing that same hunger with Dagny Taggart of Atlas Shrugged, who "never found beauty in longing for the impossible, and never found the possible to be beyond her reach."
This spirit, which regarded the ideal as a possible dream, is so at odds with the zeitgeist of the past two thousand years that it is hard for people to comprehend, let alone internalize. At least since Plato, the concept of the "ideal" has been defined as the antithesis to the "real." As a result, millions of people experience life as tragically sundered, torn between the loud demands of body and the quiet yearnings of soul -- between the meaningless clamor of mundane existence, and the faint, mocking call of a state of perfection ever beyond reach.
So ingrained is this outlook that even many who find Rand's unique moral vision compelling and inspirational nonetheless find it difficult to absorb and assimilate into their own lives. And often they wonder: How did this woman manage to do it?
How did she manage to develop and sustain her idealism in a world so inhospitable to such a vision? What gave her personality and her writing its special power, passion, and inspirational quality? Did she leave any clues, in her person and her works, to help us understand how to infuse our own lives with a similar sense of romance, passion, and meaning?
I touched on some of these issues in my talk, "What Objectivists Must Learn from Religion." But based on subsequent audience questions and comments, I believe there is more to say and to clarify. These remarks also will expand upon certain ideas from my talk, "The Value-Seeking Personality." That presentation focused on the moral and characterological aspects of becoming a value-seeker. This talk will stress the motivational and methodological dimensions: how to develop a passion for value-seeking, and how to sustain that passion in everyday life.
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