I’ve been reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition). Evidently Rand journaled extensively the characters, plot and messages she wanted to convey before she ever began writing a novel. At the beginning of this edition, they included several excerpts from Rand’s journal.
One passage stood out to me. At first I was taken aback.
It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it’s up to him to do it. But here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes — if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator’s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander.”
“Therefore he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatever to, by or through others. (He can’t — and he shouldn’t even wish to try it — and the mere attempt is improper.)”
What? But what about the power of synergy? Synergy may be one of the most central themes of my life, and thus I initially recoiled at her theory. Yet, as I continued reading, I began to better understand her reasoning and found myself agreeing:
He must not think that he can … somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for his purposes in that way. He must face other men as they are, recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his primary influence; he must deal with them only on his own, independent terms, deal with such as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him) and expect nothing from others…”
I’ve known many a creative (including myself) who were married to people of the opposite personality type who were not the least bit interested in their ideas and could not fully grasp the logic behind their dreams. In fact a friend wrote me within 12 hours after I read this passage to say that she’d finally given up on getting her husband to come around to “supporting her” in her mission. She felt she’d put her own dreams on hold waiting for him to catch up for far too long.
Her husband does love her and support her monetarily, but he’s not ecstatic about her ideas and doesn’t really “get” where she’s coming from. He doesn’t oppose her, but he’s not interested either. I think it’s important to look at our definitions of support. Does someone have to “get you” to be a support to you?
My own husband has only read one of my 21 books and that was a historical fiction novel. He doesn’t get excited about my ideas. He doesn’t get the core of what drives my passions. For a long time, I found this very frustrating. How could he even know me (or truly love me) if he doesn’t get excited about my core passion in life?
But then, I began to understand what Ayn Rand describes in that last paragraph — if we wish to be free to be ourselves, we must respect other people’s freedom to be themselves.
If I waited for my husband to get excited about my projects, read all my books, or advocate for my cause, I’d never do anything. You are responsible for your own life and your own message. Other people are responsible for theirs.
You can be with a spouse who doesn’t get excited about what excites you. I came to understand that the limitation was only in my mind. You are free to be you. You don’t need a specific person to get you. God will bring people to you (and is bringing people to you) who do get you. When I let go of expecting my husband to be who I wanted him to be, I was able to see how he DOES support me in a myriad of ways. One being, never complaining about me spreading my wings and doing my own thing.
Bottom line, I’m learning that if I want the freedom to be me, then I must allow others the freedom to be themselves … even if (in my view) they use their freedom to choose bondage.