The Gift of Apollo

Technically, living on a roller-coaster ride of extreme emotions is an almost textbook description of Bipolar Disorder. By the same standards, a mind bisected by polar opposite philosophical perspectives can only be described as Schizophrenic. Of all the words I might use to describe the world I grew up in, I can’t help but think that Bipolar and Schizophrenic are the most fitting. Looking back on it now, it’s clear to me that my lifelong struggle with mental illness is a direct result of growing up in that environment.

Anyway, I’ve been feeling a little hopeless and uninspired lately, as I struggle through one of the downturns of my own emotional roller-coaster. But the following video, posted a couple of days ago by my good friend Alex Autin, is not only a reminder of what I think of as “the highest of the high points” of my life, but a reminder of the source my malaise as well.

I don’t know about you, but to me there’s no such thing as too much Carl Sagan. And considering his close association with the space program, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that he’d personally attended the launch on that glorious day in 1969. I know for a fact that another of my great inspirations, Ayn Rand, was there, because here’s the conclusion of what she wrote about it later that same year:

That we had seen a demonstration of man at his best, no one could doubt—this was the cause of the event’s attraction and of the stunned numbed state in which it left us. And no one could doubt that we had seen an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational being—an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality.

Frustration is the leitmotif in the lives of most men, particularly today—the frustration of inarticulate desires, with no knowledge of the means to achieve them. In the sight and hearing of a crumbling world, Apollo 11 enacted the story of an audacious purpose, its execution, its triumph, and the means that achieved it—the story and the demonstration of man’s highest potential.

And therein lies the “schizophrenic rub” my friends. While many think of Sagan and Rand as philosophical “polar opposites” – with Carl Sagan being “the strident environmentalist out to stop the raping and pillaging of the Earth on an ‘industrial’ scale” and Ayn Rand being “the strident defender of the very ‘robber baron industrialist’ mentality doing all the raping and pillaging” – I, on the other hand, see an imagined “conflict of interests” where none, in fact, actually exists.

This is stated, quite well I think, in this excerpt from the The Atlas Society:

Objectivism holds that there are no fundamental conflicts of interest among rational people. That is to say that the success in life of one person does not require the suffering or failure of any other. It means that, in principle, all people can succeed in living long and happy lives, if they live by reason, embrace the virtue of productiveness, and deal with one another by trade.

This principle of the harmony of interests is key to the Objectivist view of ethics and politics. Objectivism’s ethics of rational selfishness is not an ethics of dog-eat-dog because of the harmony of interests. A political system based in individual rights to freedom—i.e., capitalism—does not pit the “haves” against the “have-nots” because of the harmony of interests.

The harmony of interests is possible because the characteristically human means of gaining values is production. Human beings apply our reasoning minds to create and use tools, to discover natural laws, to invent social technologies (e.g., the “meet-up”), and so make the products we need. Today practically every product we use and every social arrangement we take part in is the result of a developed, complex process of invention and production.

It’s hard enough to understand how anyone could fail to recognize that Carl Sagan was precisely the kind of rational mind Ayn Rand was referring to. But what really blows my mind is the fact that the villains depicted in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged were the very same robber baron types – like those fake “capitalists” depicted on your daily news – people keep accusing her of defending!

Those of you with the courage to look “behind the curtain” are invited to read Frederick Cookinham’s eye opening The Unexpected Ayn Rand article over at The Atlasphere. And don’t forget that my In Her Own Words volume is dedicated to Ayn Rand as well.

I want ice water.

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6 thoughts on “The Gift of Apollo

    • Tragic indeed PT, making Rand’s statement all the more poignant:

      Frustration is the leitmotif in the lives of most men, particularly today—the frustration of inarticulate desires, with no knowledge of the means to achieve them. In the sight and hearing of a crumbling world, Apollo 11 enacted the story of an audacious purpose, its execution, its triumph, and the means that achieved it—the story and the demonstration of man’s highest potential.

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  1. I look at these things a bit differently. In my view we did, and we are, continuing the journey. Continuing does not mean repeating the same steps, it means actually moving forward and beyond. To move beyond the moon requires a better understanding of what’s out there, how we’ll get there, and what will happen to those who make those journeys. I see this research being done today. I see it being done aboard the ISS, in longer ranged unmanned exploratory missions, at governmental space agencies around the world, and, increasingly so, in the private sector. When the stakes are as high as they are with manned spaceflight, both financially as well as in human life, failure is not an option.

    I also see a spirit of cooperation between space-faring nations that wasn’t necessarily present during the Apollo era. In my opinion, a healthy mixture of cooperation and competition is required to continue to spur us forward. Very few nations today could foot the bill of an Apollo-type program alone. To move forward requires a meeting of the ‘Sagans’ and the ‘Randian-type heroes’, those scientists and explorers with the drive, the passion, the knowledge to move forward, and those industrialists with the drive, the money, and the desire to make more money. I see Elon Musk as a prime example of a Randian-type hero.

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    • Well said Alex, but I fear your conclusion means you’ve missed my point. In my mind, there is no distinction between the ‘Sagan’ and the ‘Randian-types’. They’re all visionaries who see problems they want to solve, with the dedication and passion required to produce real solutions – solutions that deserve to be rewarded fairly. The confusion, I think, arises from our society’s failure to grasp the concept of ‘fair reward’.

      There’s a very long speech, on the nature of money, by one of the main characters in Atlas Shrugged. It was made during one of those ‘high society’ parties put on by the ‘fake capitalists’. You can read the entire speech at “Francisco’s Money Speech”, or listen to it in my The Root Of All Evil? post, but I’ll include just the first three paragraphs here:

      ”So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

      “When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor–your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money, Is this what you consider evil?

      “Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions–and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth. …

      In a world where nothing is ever just black or white, it can be really difficult to distinguish between the three basic personality types: the moochers, the looters, and the producers. To me, both of the ‘hero’ types you described fall into the ‘producer’ category, but unless and until they come to terms with the principles that define the difference, they will remain little more than ‘prey’ for the other two, who outnumber them by at least 1000 to 1.

      So it is true that the journey continues, but just imagine how much further along we’d be if we weren’t wasting so much of our intellectual resources pursuing things that hinder, rather than further, the cause…

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      • I only disagree in how we, you and I, view the journey itself. I’m fairly certain we’re on the same page else-wise.

        I’m optimistic, and I’ll admit maybe a bit naively optimistic. I’ve no interest in lamenting what could have been, or should have been, only in what is. Society, it seems, will always have to deal with the ‘moochers’ and the ‘looters’, and you’re correct in that it also seems we are forced (bullied) into giving them far more credence than they warrant else we’re portrayed as heartless and greedy. At the same time we’re told the producers are evil unless they use their gains to lift the moochers and looters from their state of oppression, even if that oppression is self-inflicted. This is nonsense.

        I think we actually agree about the ‘Sagan’ types and the ‘Randian heroes’ types, though we may label them differently. They are definitely both producers, and they are the ones who I choose to pay attention to. Paying attention to the others would only serve to frustrate me, and I’m far to motivated by self interest to allow this. The world is not perfect, and I’m only here for a very short time, I’ll spend that time focusing on, and paying attention to, what I see as good.

        I LOVE that speech from Atlas Shrugged, by the way!

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        • Oh I knew we were on the same page Alex, else I wouldn’t have given such a detailed response. Your opinion means enough to me that I wanted to make clear that I’m not just some wing-nut flapping his gums about things he’s given no real thought to.

          I’m glad you liked Francisco’s speech. But as eye-opening (and long) as it was, it was merely a prelude to the much more powerful (and considerably longer) speech given by John Galt at the end of the book. The This is John Galt Speaking YouTube channel produced 18 videos to cover the entire speech, half of which I posted to my In Her Own Words volume before I ran out of steam.

          The way her message has been twisted, by both the left and the right, to manipulate those who can’t, or won’t, read it for themselves, really pisses me off. But what scares me most is how the right wraps itself in the Atlas Shrugged flag – as if she hadn’t said outright that she viewed the conservatives as the worst threat to capitalism the world had ever seen. Which leaves all the people on the left, who also haven’t read her for themselves, patting themselves on the back and thinking “I knew Ayn Rand was evil!”

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