Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

23 February 2005

On Who John Galt Is

I would like to make a comment about John Galt of Ayn Rand's great work, Atlas Shrugged, who is too often seen as less human and less appealing than he is, even by Objectivists.

He is a man who does not and cannot lose his focus. He also is a man we do not get a large amount of information on, since he is the mystery of Atlas Shrugged. Nonetheless, we are given some very vivid pictures of the man, his passionately held vision, his dedication to his friends and to the men of ability, his love of knowledge and its applications, his joy in living in Galt's Gulch, and his passion for Dagny.

No one easily comes by the means to invent a motor that can change man's life on earth in the manner that Galt's motor is supposed to do. John Galt studied physics with a passion and he pushed the frontiers of its theory for the purpose of making life better for all of mankind. When he discovered that mankind did not deserve his motor, he walked away from a fortune and fame before he ever got to experience them. This is an unmatched passion.

He then dedicates many years to the task of identifying the men of ability, watching and waiting until they are ready to understand why they must leave behind the businesses and reputations they worked most of their lives to attain. This long and hidden labor was not that of a philosopher simply knowing what was right. This unsung effort is a labor of love for what is right. His is a mighty conviction that he is freeing the world's heroes so that they might all have a chance to live life as it should be and have a chance to pursue their own happiness. He shares the loss over and over again that each of them has when they leave the world, but he also shares their joy as they learn again to find enjoyment in every moment in Galt's Gulch.

While he is watching, he spends his days working in a simple and dull job. This is very hard for a man of blazing intellect to do. At night and on weekends he works alone in his hidden, small laboratory. Without money and given the need for secrecy, how did he equip his lab? He must have had to scrounge, repair, and build everything he needed. The effort was Herculean and driven by his passion for knowledge and contriving a better world for man.

Most Objectivist women love Francisco. I can see why. I love him also. Strangely, I do not believe that I have ever heard an Objectivist man say that he loves Dagny. I love Dagny.
I can imagine John Galt watching her and Francisco suffer through many years of separation when Dagny feels betrayed and Francisco must not explain that he is not the traitor he appears to be. John Galt felt the pain of both of them. He loves Francisco and comes to love Dagny soon after the strike begins. He watches Dagny struggle heroically year after year to save her railroad. He sees her use every ounce of strength she has day after day and must terribly want to ease her burden and have her walk away. He sees her come to love Hank Rearden and all he can do is watch. He wants to hold her himself and he cannot. He keeps his focus and he does not rush her into an escape from her perceived responsibilities and passions. He waits until she is fully ready to understand and accept the need to leave the world of her railroad. He waits to allow Francisco to try to regain her love. When Dagny is ready and certain, only then does he claim her and her love.

There are other glimpses of the man. When he carries Dagny after her plane crash. This is an incredibly emotional scene. There is his joy in cooking. The care and effort he put into building his small house in Galt's Gulch. This is a man with a huge passion for life.

Why is John Galt hard for people to appreciate as a flesh and blood man? People overlook the passion required for great drive and focus. There is a prejudice against scientists, perhaps because a part of their passion is devoted fairly directly to reality rather than to other people. Scientists generate their passion from within in greater part, rather than as a shared emotion with others. But largely, people just wish to have spent more time with John Galt to include watching him relax more with other people. I wish I could have also.

I felt a powerful resentment every time I had to leave the company of Dagny, Francisco, or Hank to spend time with James Taggart or Wesley Mouch and the like. It was a plunge from bliss into hell every time. I was also frustrated that I did not get to spend a lot more time with John Galt, especially after his mission was complete and our heroes were clustered in Galt's Gulch. But alas, novels must end sometime.

John Galt is a brilliant physicist, a philosopher, a leader of heroes, the man who won the woman I love, and the most passionate character in Atlas Shrugged. He is very real to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Anderson: Great speaking with you the other day. It's interesting that AS connects with others in different ways, aside from the principal and most philosophical level that John Galt symbolizes. He IS Atlas, and had to shrug for the better. Physicist, Philosopher, and Engineer. He truly represents the hero that we, as human beings, should all aspire to be like. Thanks, and take care! -JO