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A Life, A Philosophy

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There will be a one-day seminar on Ayn Rand’s life, writings, and philosophy on March 20th at the Smithsonian. The instructor is Shoshana Milgram Knapp. Professor Knapp is currently writing a study on Rand’s personal life to 1957, integrated with Rand’s vision of the human ideal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Spring DaySB

Little notes of music trembled in hesitation, and burst, and rolled in quick, fine waves, like the thin, clear ringing of glass. Little notes leaped and exploded and laughed, laughed with a full, unconditional, consummate human joy.

. . .

At dawn, she fell on the edge of a slope. She lay very still, for she knew she would not rise again.

Far down, below her, an endless plain stretched into the sunrise. . . .

A lonely little tree stood far away in the plain. It had no leaves. Its slim, rare twigs had gathered no snow. It stretched, tense with the life of a future spring, thin black branches, like arms, into the dawn rising over an endless earth where so much had been possible.

We the Living (1936)
The notes flowed up, they spoke of rising and they were the rising itself, they were the essence and the form of upward motion, they seemed to embody every human act and thought that had ascent as its motive. It was a sunburst of sound, breaking out of hiding and spreading open. It had the freedom of release and the tension of purpose. It swept space clean and left nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort. . . .

The lights of the valley fell in glowing patches on the snow still covering the ground. There were shelves of snow on the granite ledges and on the heavy limbs of the pines. But the naked branches of the birch trees had a faintly upward thrust, as if in confident promise of the coming leaves of spring.

Atlas Shrugged (1957)
. . . a spring day in 1957; we were walking up Madison Avenue toward the office of Random House, which was in the process of bringing out Atlas Shrugged. She was looking at the city she had always loved most, and now, after decades of rejection and bitter poverty, she had seen the top publishers in that city competing for what she knew, triumphantly, was her masterpiece. She turned to me suddenly and said: “Don’t ever give up what you want in life. The struggle is worth it.” . . . I can still see the look of quiet radiance on her face.
–Leonard Peikoff (1987)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Footnote

In his paper The Music of We the Living, Michael Berliner pulls together the seven places in the novel in which Rand brings in “The Song of Broken Glass.” There has been some curiosity and speculation over whether the author had in mind some specific actual song in her song of this fiction, used in Kira’s final scene appearing above. She remarked once “What I had in mind for it was my kind of tiddly-wink music, as an abstraction for that. . . . I used one particular record at the time as inspiration, but I never held it literally as that song, but only as the prototype. And that [was the]

.” Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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There will be a one-day seminar on Ayn Rand’s life, writings, and philosophy on March 20th at the Smithsonian. The instructor is Shoshana Milgram Knapp. Professor Knapp is currently writing a study on Rand’s personal life to 1957, integrated with Rand’s vision of the human ideal.

It should be interesting to compare SMK's biography with the ones by Burns and Heller -- and Barbara Branden, for that matter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Spring DaySB

Little notes of music trembled in hesitation, and burst, and rolled in quick, fine waves, like the thin, clear ringing of glass. Little notes leaped and exploded and laughed, laughed with a full, unconditional, consummate human joy.

. . .

At dawn, she fell on the edge of a slope. She lay very still, for she knew she would not rise again.

Far down, below her, an endless plain stretched into the sunrise. . . .

A lonely little tree stood far away in the plain. It had no leaves. Its slim, rare twigs had gathered no snow. It stretched, tense with the life of a future spring, thin black branches, like arms, into the dawn rising over an endless earth where so much had been possible.

We the Living (1936)

I suppose that passage could be used as inspiration for how to face the end, when one has to die before one is ready. Or even when one ~is~ ready, I suppose. But I still find the ending of We the Living to be unbearably depressing.

The notes flowed up, they spoke of rising and they were the rising itself, they were the essence and the form of upward motion, they seemed to embody every human act and thought that had ascent as its motive. It was a sunburst of sound, breaking out of hiding and spreading open. It had the freedom of release and the tension of purpose. It swept space clean and left nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort. . . .

The lights of the valley fell in glowing patches on the snow still covering the ground. There were shelves of snow on the granite ledges and on the heavy limbs of the pines. But the naked branches of the birch trees had a faintly upward thrust, as if in confident promise of the coming leaves of spring.

Atlas Shrugged (1957)

I have taken the above (especially the first paragraph) as a strong lead to understanding the emotional nature of music. I've talked about it in San Francisco, Nashville TN, Orange CA, and Las Vegas over the past 6 years or so, and I've written about it in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. In fact, there is an interesting case to be made for the idea that there are four basic moods or emotions in music, and that they correspond to the four seasons in a general sort of way. More on this another time!

. . . a spring day in 1957; we were walking up Madison Avenue toward the office of Random House, which was in the process of bringing out Atlas Shrugged. She was looking at the city she had always loved most, and now, after decades of rejection and bitter poverty, she had seen the top publishers in that city competing for what she knew, triumphantly, was her masterpiece. She turned to me suddenly and said: “Don’t ever give up what you want in life. The struggle is worth it.” . . . I can still see the look of quiet radiance on her face.
–Leonard Peikoff (1987)

Rand's remark is my motto, and it has been ever since I read/heard Dagny say something similar in Atlas Shrugged

Peikoff, however, engages in a bit of hyperbole. ~Decades~ of bitter poverty? ~Bitter~ poverty? Are we talking about the same woman who, less than 20 years after entering the U.S., bought a mink coat? And prior to purchasing the amalgamated pelts of those unfortunate creatures, did Rand ever live in a poorly heated shanty, with not enough to eat? And I think the amount of rejection she received has usually been inflated, as well. The Fountainhead could have come out sooner, and she could have gotten her mink coat sooner (!), if she had kept agreed-upon deadlines with at least one of her prospective publishers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Footnote

In his paper The Music of We the Living, Michael Berliner pulls together the seven places in the novel in which Rand brings in “The Song of Broken Glass.” There has been some curiosity and speculation over whether the author had in mind some specific actual song in her song of this fiction, used in Kira’s final scene appearing above. She remarked once “What I had in mind for it was my kind of tiddly-wink music, as an abstraction for that. . . . I used one particular record at the time as inspiration, but I never held it literally as that song, but only as the prototype. And that [was the]

.”

I listened to two different versions of this piece, and I find it unremarkable musically, and mildly irritating. But then, that was ~Rand's~ tiddly-wink music, not ~mine~! <g>

REB

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Roger:

As I was just scanning this post for the first time, that "bitter poverty" is a solid down scaling of the probative value of Lenny's accuracy.

Maybe he and Frank were drinking buddies.

Adam

I would have enjoyed having a drink with Frank at least

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Roger:

As I was just scanning this post for the first time, that "bitter poverty" is a solid down scaling of the probative value of Lenny's accuracy.

Maybe he and Frank were drinking buddies.

Adam

I would have enjoyed having a drink with Frank at least

Adam; Lenny has never been drinking buddies with anyone.

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Roger:

As I was just scanning this post for the first time, that "bitter poverty" is a solid down scaling of the probative value of Lenny's accuracy.

Maybe he and Frank were drinking buddies.

Adam

I would have enjoyed having a drink with Frank at least

Adam; Lenny has never been drinking buddies with anyone.

That's hard to imagine (that he could be). Laughably so.

Bill P

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Accomplishments and teachers admired and important to one man, occasions for light distraction and making small by others.

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Neil Parille writes this morning that Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand “is little more than a repackaging of Rand’s ideas . . . .” Chris Grieb agrees.

I have written some time ago:

The essentials of the essentials of the essentials of the essentials gets one to the standing-on-one-foot essentials of a theory. So for relativity, special and general, one gets the standing-on-one-foot essentials: frame-invariance of the form of physical laws, frame-invariance of a finite upper limit of velocity, and the equivalence of gravitational and inertial mass. . . .

But for a statement of the essentials of [special relativity] back at the first level, before the distillations of the distillations of the distillations suitable for the standing-on-one-foot characterization, one should turn to books such as Wolfgang Rindler's Essential Relativity. . . . At this level, in my judgment, the essentials of Rand's philosophy Objectivism are what is included in Leonard Peikoff's book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Rand approved the lecture series (1976) from which this book was composed as the straight statement of her philosophy. I heard that lecture series in 1977. I took 53 pages of notes during the lectures. Peikoff remained true to the lectures in his book. He couldn't include everything from the lectures, but he did very well at selecting what was essential to present in a book-length basic statement of Rand's philosophy.

Rand rightly did not say that Peikoff's lecture series (and the anticipated book to be based on them) was the only possible correct systematic presentation of her philosophy. Other books can be written on The Essential Objectivism, and their authors can argue from Rand's own philosophic writings that theirs is a correct statement of her philosophy and a correct identification of what is essential to her philosophy and what is not.

To produce a work such as Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand requires a great deal more than simply repackaging. It requires considerable intelligence, considerable independent thoughtful connecting, weighing, and weighting. Similarly, it has been evident that in producing The Logical Structure of Objectivism, David Kelley has been doing a great deal more than repackaging Rand’s ideas.

I am not the only scholarly person who studies widely and deeply in philosophy and who thinks for himself and who does not derate Peikoff’s OPAR as “little more than a repackaging of Rand’s ideas.” David Kelley writes of OPAR:

What the book does do, brilliantly for the most part, is to present the central principles of Objectivism, with clear explanations of their meaning and derivation. Peikoff covers every area of philosophy, every major principle, and all the major logical relationships among these principles. Given the limits set by the project of stating an entire worldview in a single volume, it is comprehensive. In all these ways, it far surpasses any other work that has attempted to portray the philosophy as a whole . . . .

The book is based on a lecture series, "The Philosophy of Objectivism," which Peikoff gave in 1976. It covers essentially the same material as the lectures, often with the same formulations and examples. But Peikoff has improved the organization considerably, increasing both the economy and power of his argument. Many important ideas that have been part of the "oral tradition" of Objectivism—discussed in lectures and seminars but never published—are set out here in print for the first time. And where he discusses material that Rand did write about, he does so with a clarity and thoroughness that complement her flashing penetration. His discussion of life as a fundamental value (207-213), of the evil of coercion (310-324), and of the function of art (414-428) are especially good.

At a somewhat more popular and introductory level, too, a presentation of Rand’s philosophy can entail a great deal more than “repackaging of Rand’s ideas.” An example is Andrew Bernstein’s Objectivism in One Lesson (Hamilton 2008). Jurgis Brakas writes of this work (for the back cover):

For decades there has been no book for the intelligent layman who enjoyed Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and wished to understand the complex philosophical system they embody. His master-stroke is to identify the theme of Rand’s philosophy—“man’s rational mind is his sole means of gaining knowledge, survival, and happiness”—and to use this principle as the core around which to organize his exposition. I will certainly use this book in my courses. A little gem.

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.

Ayn Rand in Chicago

Scott Holleran

This article mentions Rand's choice of the pen name Ayn in place of her given name Alice (Alissa). Rand was able to read some German, and I have wondered for some time if Rand chose that name by its identical sound with the German word ein, the first meaning of which is one, single one. Has anyone heard an alternative reason for the choice of Ayn (besides the attraction of it being monosyllabic and beginning with the same letter as her given name)?

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Has anyone heard an alternative reason for the choice of Ayn (besides the attraction of it being monosyllabic and beginning with the same letter as her given name)?

I think in Heller you'll find the suggestion that it came from her father, and that it had something to do with having big eyes. Meaning it was a pet name for a child, and it has either a Hebrew or Yiddish origin.

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Has anyone heard an alternative reason for the choice of Ayn (besides the attraction of it being monosyllabic and beginning with the same letter as her given name)?

I think in Heller you'll find the suggestion that it came from her father, and that it had something to do with having big eyes. Meaning it was a pet name for a child, and it has either a Hebrew or Yiddish origin.

Ayn is the transliteration of the Hebrew word for nothing, not, a hole or a void.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I don't recall where I saw this (Barbara Branden's bio?), but it has been mentioned that "Ayn" is a Finnish feminine name that she adopted for her own.

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One thing that always made me wonder was when the Brandens said they just picked their new last name out of thin air without thinking of the incorporation of Rand in it -- talk about programming the subconscious!

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One thing that always made me wonder was when the Brandens said they just picked their new last name out of thin air without thinking of the incorporation of Rand in it -- talk about programming the subconscious!

Did anyone also note that "Branden" was the name of a heroic Jewish leader in the Warsaw ghetto in \Leon Uris's great novel "Mila 18"?

Edit - sorry \I misremembered, it was Brandel. But who knows Uris wasn't influenced in the choice of name?

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Ayn is the transliteration of the Hebrew word for nothing, not, a hole or a void.

Ba'al Chatzaf

In Wikipedia it is translated as "eye":

Hebrew word עין (ayin, meaning "eye")

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Ayn is the transliteration of the Hebrew word for nothing, not, a hole or a void.

Ba'al Chatzaf

In Wikipedia it is translated as "eye":

Hebrew word עין (ayin, meaning "eye")

an eye is a hole. the word also applies to a well.

You will also notice our symbol for zero (which goes back to Sumer) is a round hole.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Ayn is the transliteration of the Hebrew word for nothing, not, a hole or a void.

Ba'al Chatzaf

In Wikipedia it is translated as "eye":

Hebrew word עין (ayin, meaning "eye")

an eye is a hole. the word also applies to a well.

You will also notice our symbol for zero (which goes back to Sumer) is a round hole.

Ba'al Chatzaf

"Ayin" ('eye'), can mean 'hole' then? ("Eye" of a needle comes to mind, or "window").

For in your July 13 post, you wrote [bolding mine]:

Ayn is the transliteration of the Hebrew word for nothing, not, a hole or a void.

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1923 in We the Living

"Historians will write of the 'Internationale' as the great anthem of the great revolution. But the cities of the revolution had their own hymn. In days to come men of Petrograd will remember those years of hunger, and struggle, and hopes to the convulsive rhythm of 'John Gray'.

" . . . It had a tune and a rhythm such as those of the new dances they imagined far across the border, abroad. . . . Petrograd had known sweeping epidemics of cholera; it had known epidemics of typhus, which were worse; the worst of its epidemics was that of 'John Gray'.

"Men stood in line at the co-operatives---and whistled 'John Gray". . . . Men hung on the steps of speeding tramways, humming desperately 'John Gray'. . . .

"Its gaiety was sad; its abrupt rhythm was hysterical; its frivolity was a plea, a moan after that which existed somewhere, forever out of reach. Through winter nights red flags whistled in the snowdrifts and the city prayed hopelessly with short, sharp notes of 'John Gray'."

John Gray

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.

Alisa Rosenbaum, starting at sixteen, attended some operettas at the Mikhailovsky Theater.*  Viennese operettas became a psychological lifeline to her in Petrograd/Leningrad of post-revolutionary Soviet Russia. Her favorite composer of operettas was Emmerich Kalman. (See further Michael Berliner's "The Music of We the Living" in Essays on WL.)

1924 in We the Living (All my quotations are from the 1936 issue.)

Kira and Leo "saved the money for many months and on a Sunday evening they bought two tickets to see 'Bajadere', 'latest sensation of Vienna, Berlin and Paris'.

"They sat, solemn, erect, reverent as at a church service, Kira a little paler than usual in her gray silk dress, Leo trying not to cough, and they listened to the wantonest operetta from over there, from abroad.

"It was very gay nonsense. It was like a glance straight through the snow and the flags, through the border into the heart of that other world. There were colored lights, and spangles, and crystal goblets, and a real foreign bar with a dull glass archway where a green light moved slowly up, preceding every entrance---a real foreign elevator. There were women in shimmering satin from a place where fashions existed, and people dancing a funny, silly foreign dance called 'Shimmy', and a woman who did not sing, but barked words out, spitting them contemptuously at the audience, in a flat, hoarse voice that trailed suddenly in to a husky moan, and a music that laughed deliriously, panting, gasping, hitting the ears and the throuat and the breath, a music drunken, impudent, like the challenge of a sparkling, overripe, perverted gaiety, a music like . . . , a promise that existed somewhere, that was, that could be.

"The public laughed, and applauded, and laughed. When the lights went on after the final curtain, in the procession of cheerful grins down the aisles many noticed with surprise a girl in a gray silk dress, who sat in an emptying row, bent over, here face in her hands, sobbing." (244-45)

(The silk dress had been her mother's from the old days.)

Bajadere - Kalman

At the minutes 24 to 28, for example, one can sample the opera within the operetta as well as the operetta in its own frame.

 

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