Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shrugging at John Galt

Will Wilkinson has what in all likelihood is the most intelligent and insightful thing anyone's written on Rand's Atlas Shrugged:
By the way, Atlas buffs, the point of Atlas Shrugged is not that you are John Galt. The point is that you are not John Galt. The point is that you are, at your best, Eddie Willers. You’re smart, hardworking, productive, and true. But you’re no creative genius and you take innovation — John Galt — for granted. You don’t even know who he is! And this eventually leaves you weeping on abandoned train tracks.
I've never read Atlas, but this one paragraph actually has me interested. In this reading, the book marks the passing of an heroic age of creative geniuses like Galt. For Rand this is a tragedy, but in most myth cycles what you get in the next phase is generally more democratic and egalitarian than the "Aristocratic" age that preceeded it (see the simplified version Vico in Finnegans Wake for example, or even the leaving of the Elves at the end of The Lord of the Rings).

A misreading of the author's intent no doubt, but it gets me thinking.

[via Ross Douthat]