“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
Have you ever considered yourself a heroic being? The author of this quote is Ayn Rand – a Russian-American author and philosopher.
Individualism, self-love, objectivism, freedom, reason… These are some of the associations that eventually come to mind when I think of Ayn Rand. She’s best known for developing a philosophy of rational individualism called Objectivism. To me, her philosophy is a key to living a happy, thriving, free life.
But it’s not the main reason why she keeps on inspiring millions of people. The main reason is that her heroes are unique. Her stories are full of passionate figures who live their own effort and teach us to rediscover “I”, and learn ourselves.
Many things are known about Rand’s controversial life, but here are 10 facts that are probably unknown, even to people who admire her theory.
1) She never invested in the stock market
Ayn Rand was an individualist capitalist. Which means what? She held that capitalism was the only social system in which humans could survive and achieve individual happiness.
In simple words, capitalism is an economic system where trade is controlled by individuals, private owners, instead of the government. You may now think that making full use of the free market is something she would do. But guess what? Rand never invested her money in the stock market.
“The greatest proponent of capitalism was afraid to use the greatest mechanism of market capitalism”, says Anne Heller, the author of “Ayn Rand and the World She Made”.
Was she afraid? Did she have trust issues? Or maybe she just didn’t understand the way the stock market worked.
Rand was a rational woman. She didn’t want to invest because she couldn’t predict the future economic situation.
She didn’t trust anything she didn’t understand. “Faith is the worst curse of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought,” she said. Why should she have faith in something she didn’t trust?
Still, the idea that one of the greatest supporters of the free market considered investing in the stock market too risky is a bit weird.
2) She changed her name
However simple and attractive “Ayn Rand” might seem, it’s not her real name.
Think about it. Have you ever heard the name “Ayn” somewhere else? That’s because it’s her own invention. But as she explains in the fan letter, originally, it’s a Finnish feminine name. It should be pronounced as “I-na” but she chose “Ayn” by eliminating the final letter “a”. It’s simpler, right?
Making it more simple is one of the main reasons why authors often take up new names or write under pseudonyms. But we don’t know the exact reason this time.
Ayn Rand was born as Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum. But after moving to the US in 1926 in order to gain expertise in cinematography, she changed her name. Even if “Alisa” isn’t too difficult to pronounce, her surname was indeed confusing to US society.
For too long, she was addressing questions about her name, but now we already know that the correct pronunciation of “Ayn” is just like “pine”. Doesn’t it sound beautiful?
3) Her husband called her “Kitten Fluff”
How would you describe the personality of Ayn Rand?
Independent? Individualistic? Free-spirited? Powerful?
Whatever you say, it will probably probably be a dominant adjective. But surprisingly, her husband, artist Charles Francis O’Connor, called Rand no more, no less, “Kitten Fluff”.
Rand met her husband on the set of the 1927 short film “King of Kings”. Is using such a pet name a sign that she showed her softer side to her husband? Probably.
As her biographer, Jeniffer Burns, says in “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right”, Charles was the only person with whom she wasn’t that strong and powerful woman. He was the only one with whom she was a human (Yes, she was called the “Goddess of the Market” and she indeed was).
We should also mention that she called her husband “Cubbyhole” in return (which is no less weird, I believe).
4) There’s a dating site called the Atlasphere
“Randians” — that’s the name for people who identify themselves as Ayn Rand fans. It’s not a big surprise; the philosophy of Objectivism is indeed very influential. But did you know there is a specific dating site specially created for Randians?
That’s what I call a surprise.
The Atlasphere is an online platform dedicated to the admirers of Rand’s novels, “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” (the name comes from this novel, as you can see). What does it mean?
It means that after reading “The Fountainhead” and having the urge to share your thoughts with a like-minded person just like me, you can reach out to this social networking site and maybe even find a life partner too.
Rand said that “A person cannot say “I love you” without first being able to say the I”. But now this and other philosophical quotes are probably considered cliches for the Atlasphere community.
Seriously, can you imagine that Ayn Rand, a fiercely individualistic woman who preached uniqueness, would promote relationships through a collective dating community?
5) She was a committed smoker
Did you know that Ayn Rand was a heavy smoker?
Actually, it’s not a big surprise because back in that time, everyone smoked. Smoking was common practice and wasn’t considered as harmful. Even more. It was glamorous. However, Rand’s smoking habit ended badly.
She underwent surgery for lung cancer in 1974. She lost a lung and had to quit smoking. Keep in mind, it was before the US Surgeon General’s report on “Smoking and Health” would be published.
What is surprising here is the fact that even afterward, she didn’t believe there was a real connection between smoking and cancer. She firmly denied that her smoking habit caused cancer.
Not only Rand herself, but most of her fictional heroes also smoke. She talks about the habit of smoking in Chapter III of “Atlas Shrugged”: “I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come from such hours”.
What if she sat alone, lighting a cigarette and watching smoke when the fantastic idea of Objectivism came to her mind?
6) She supported FDR and profited from his New Deal
Ayn Rand is considered a libertarian icon. In simple words, libertarians are against the government’s interventions. They value the idea of a “free market” and believe that people can regulate the market themselves, without any involvement from the state.
Did FDR share this idea?
No. As a matter of fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the US, was a member of the democratic party who implemented the New Deal policies in order to avoid the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in the history of the US.
And yet, Rand supported FDR. How did it happen?
As Rand’s biographer, Anne Heller, says, she voted for Roosevelt because she was under the impression of the New Deal policies. Roosevelt promised to end Prohibition and she thought it was a crime against individual rights.
Needless to say, later she changed her mind. She made fun of the New Deal in her novel “Atlas Shrugged” and strictly refused the power of the government throughout her life. Paradoxically, it seems like she personally profited from FDR’s government.
7) Donald Trump adores her works
Rand was a libertarian. This means she supported only the limited power of the state. But Donald Trump was a Republican president. Yet it turns out, he adores Rand’s novels.
Feel confused yet?
It’s strange, but it’s true. Trump declared he’s a fan of Ayn Rand and even more. He identifies himself with Howard Roark, the main protagonist of the novel “The Fountainhead”. Roark is an example of individualism. He’s an architect who never follows anyone and has his own path in this life.
What is even more surprising to me is that not only Trump but all the Trump advisers and allies read Ayn Rand. US Republican leaders adore Ayn Rand and her controversial philosophy of Objectivism. Even more. There are plenty of Rand fans out there who believe that choosing Trump as a leader would give them an opportunity to live out their supposed ideals.
Does Trump actually live by Rand’s selfish philosophy? Maybe everybody just misinterpreted her theory. Maybe, or hopefully…
8) She donated to the state of Israel
Rand was an atheist. She refused to believe anything that couldn’t be proven objectively. She was Jewish but openly declared that her religion didn’t mean anything to her. Still, at one point she indeed saw the appeal of spirituality.
In 1973, Ayn Rand donated money to the state of Israel. It’s a proven fact, but unexplained.
Was it because of a tough period for the Israeli people? Yes, it was the time when the second Arab-Israeli War began. But Rand never cared for the collective well-being. All she cared about was individuals. However, donating money is against the idea of her selfishness.
Some people believe that this donation is proof that her religion was more important to her than she publicly admitted. Others say that it can be explained by the core principles of Israel and its modernist values.
9) She was called “Mrs. Logic”
Rand hated “small talks”. She enjoyed taking part in political and philosophical arguments and never stepped back. As eyewitnesses say, there was no way you would win an argument with her.
She never lost an argument. That’s probably why she was called “Mrs. Logic”.
Rand was someone who had the power to explain anything rationally, even if it was irrational. Whenever she met someone new, she would use her controversial pickup line: “Tell me your premises.”
And that was it. The only available option was to stay away. Why? Because she could understand people better in a few hours than their analysts did in years.
She won all the arguments from the beginning. Except for this one time.
Imagine one long night and Rand’s all-night talk sessions with her young student. That was the first time when she lost an argument publicly and that was exactly when she was first called “Mrs. Logic”. Interestingly, this one young student became her lover later.
It’s nothing new that Rand’s philosophy is controversial. You may agree with it. You may disagree. You may adore it. You may refute it with the most rational arguments. And each of these positions is acceptable.
But remember. “A man is entitled to his own happiness.” So, you must achieve happiness yourself. Whether you agree with it or not, hopefully, these words will make you think deeply about the purpose of your life.