Three Years and Counting

On October 25, 2012 I started reading a novel called Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. (I know this only because I keep track of my reading on Goodreads.) I didn't get very far into it. In fact, I put it down to begin reading The Fountainhead, another novel by Ayn Rand that was written before Atlas Shrugged. At the time I had never heard of Ayn Rand. 

The book-set was gifted to me by a dear friend. At that time I had no idea I would be giving years of my life to essentially explore Ayn Rand's mind. I have seen major milestones in my life during the course of reading these books, including trips back to Ohio for funerals of grandparents, two career changes, publishing my own book, purchasing a home, shifting my worldview. I feel as though these books have been a close friend, weathering the storms with me. 

In the Summer of 2013 I finished reading The Fountainhead and made my way back to Atlas Shrugged. Slowly but surely I started reading through the pages. 

I met a barista at Starbucks one night that saw me reading Atlas Shrugged, and she shared with me that she has spent years trying to complete her first read through of that book. It's over 1000 pages, which typically wouldn't phase me (I've always been an avid reader), but with Ayn's books, I found myself reading a paragraph and then staring off into space to consider her logic and how it can translate to my life. An hour was known to fly by with me enjoying the exact same page. Periodically I see that barista and we ask each other if we've finished reading the book yet. I had grown accustomed to telling her I hadn't. 

Over the last two weeks I decided to watch the three part movie series of Atlas Shrugged. I already had a good idea of how the book was going to end because I had done so much research on Ayn Rand. Still, I did pause before watching part 3 with my husband. 

"I think I need to finish the book first," I said. 

"You haven't finished the book yet? You've been reading it for a year and a half!"

"Even longer," I said.

Two of my kids asked me, "Do you just not have the time to read, Mommy?"

"I could make the time to read," I said, realizing that I had never considered making it a goal to get the book read. I had never pictured myself telling that barista, "I finished it!"

"It took her over 10 years to write, I'm honoring the time she spent on it. It's no small commitment," I said to my family.

I went ahead and watched Part 3 of the movie, knowing full well they had cut so much of the story short. It's hard to fit a 1000 page book into a movie, even if you do have three parts. I was still left with a deep desire to finish reading the book. 

So, why haven't I finished it yet? 

I wasn't ready to finish it. I was keeping myself from it. Lately I had limited my reading time to the time I spent on a stair stepper in the gym. You can't very well get through an 1000 page book very fast that way. I don't go to they gym THAT much. Ha! The questions from my family brought the reading of this book to the forefront of my thoughts. 

Then I read a quote by Joseph Campbell which said:

"When you find an author who really grabs you, read everything he has done...Don't bother at all with the best-seller list. Just read what this one author has to give you. And then you can go read what he had read. And the world opens up in a way that is consistent with a certain point of view."

Ayn has written more than The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and I want to read more. If I finish this book, I can read more. The more I read, the more I surround myself with her beautiful point of view that has become consistent with what I am after in my living. I only have so much time here, and I want all she has to offer me!

When I first started dreaming up The Magic School, I was after a way to make great stories translate into my real life. That feeling you have while reading an engaging story? I wanted to feel the same way about my living. I am not fond of beautiful ideas that never become action - fiction that never becomes reality. What good is beauty if it's just brainwaves that don't alter my living? 

I have been saturating myself in Ayn Rand's world and taking my time because it isn't enough for it to just be a book. It is so beautiful, I want it to be a living and breathing part of my life in some concrete way. I want it to be a clear challenge, a plan, a goal. I want to have action steps and concise momentum towards personal change. What she has opened up to me is a world of next steps and fresh possibility, when life and what I had come to know it as had completely and utterly ground to a halt.

And here's the thing, that is scary and challenging and intense. She raised the bar high, and I love her for it. She thought humanity was capable of a high bar. She thought the human spirit was worthy of the upward glance. But her sort of thinking requires something from me, and I want to be worthy of the responsibility before I opt to take it on. Only I can extend to myself that worthiness. Only I can own the choice to proceed knowing what I now know. Am I ready for that?

I've been dragging my feet because I wasn't sure how to answer that. 

Now I'm sure. 

I'm ready. 

I want to prove it to myself through my living.

By October 31, I will have completed my read thru of Atlas Shrugged. I can't wait to see that barista again. 

An Interaction With Something Grand

I read recently somewhere that as a person makes a major worldview change, their artistic tastes will follow suit. Maybe not immediately, but gradually, over time, the person will shift in their aesthetic interests. Through their art, artists recreate the world as they see it, including at the very core of their work their own personal opinions (whether consciously known or not) on metaphysics. 

I posed a question in the Secret Message Society Zine last month which was alluding to a similar topic:

Hashtags are a tool used to connect people in social circles around common interests and if you gradually shift your hashtags due to your shift in worldview, you may just find yourself surrounded by a completely different group of people. 

Over the weekend I had some time to myself one evening, and so I returned home with some Thai food and turned on the actual radio (not spotify or pandora, or google play, etc.) in my home to a classical station. I had found this radio station earlier in the week while scanning stations on my car radio. The pop station hasn't been cutting it lately. Did the music change or did I? It just isn't holding my attention.

I lit a candle and read out of two books I had just checked out of the library earlier in the day - one by O. Henry and one by Natalie Goldberg. Me and my chopsticks were at the mercy of whatever music the radio host had selected for the night, and I listened through hours of radio programming, my dog laying close beside me in the living room on his bed.

I kept thinking to myself, this is music that is big enough for me. This is music I can expand into. There is a scope here of grandeur that includes possibility and dignity and hope. I felt a lifted countenance that was more than emotion. It was something longer lasting. Something stable and resolute in the core of me. A reconfiguring of matter. A literal lifting of the chin and a softening of the corners of my mouth. The walls of my home were pushing out. The ceiling was pressing upwards. The spaces between the furniture grew vast and welcoming. My innate sense of capability was being echoed back to me and it was every bit as dramatic as life is meant to be. Score after score to honor the living, and me there, available, to bask in it.