By Harry Binswanger
February 2nd is the birthday of Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand developed and defended Objectivism, a philosophy that advocates “rational selfishness.”
To celebrate Randsday, you do something not done on any other holiday: you give yourself a present. Randsday is for getting that longed-for luxury you ordinarily would not buy for yourself. Or for doing that long-postponed, self-pampering activity you cannot seem to fit into your chore-packed schedule.
Randsday is for reminding ourselves that pleasure is an actual need, a psychological requirement for a human consciousness. For man, motivation, energy, enthusiasm are not givens. Psychological depression is not only possible but rampant in our duty-preaching, self-denigrating culture. The alternative is not short-range, superficial “fun,” but real, self-rewarding pleasure. On Randsday, if you do something that you ordinarily would think of as “fun,” you do it on a different premise and with a deeper meaning: that you need pleasure, you are entitled to it, and that the purpose and justification of your existence is: getting what you want—what you really want, with full consciousness and dedication.
In The Fountainhead, Peter Keating comes to realize this:
Katie, I wanted to marry you. It was the only thing I ever really wanted. And that’s the sin that can’t be forgiven—that I hadn’t done what I wanted. It feels so dirty and pointless and monstrous, as one feels about insanity, because there’s no sense to it, no dignity, nothing but pain—and wasted pain. . . . Katie, why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world—to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want. As I wanted to marry you. Not as I want to sleep with some woman or get drunk or get my name in the papers. Those things—they’re not even desires—they’re things people do to escape from desires—because it’s such a big responsibility, really to want something.
Randsday is the time to challenge any duty-premise, re-affirm your love of your values, and honor the principle that joy in living is an end in itself.
Have a selfish Randsday!
Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand. He moderates Harry Binswanger’s List (HBL)–an email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues. Made available from www.randsday.com