Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rand Contra Bush – I

The "rule of three" for celebrity deaths is, of course, a bogus concept, created in part by the expectations generated by the "rule of three." Two celebrities die close together, and everyone is waiting for the third. Nevertheless, we play the game anyway, like trying to see cloud castles, or making up a story about the pictures shown by a psychiatrist.

I was talking to Dick Lupoff in early 1982, when he pointed out a recent trio of celebrity deaths that seemed somehow intriguing:

Thelonious Sphere Monk (October 10, 1917-February 17, 1982)
Ayn Rand (February 2, 1905 – March 6, 1982)
Philip Kindred Dick (December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982)

Later, I had an idea, one of those whimsical notions that I'm pretty sure I'll never get around to doing, about doing a sort of one act play, with the three of them sitting around in the waiting room for the afterlife. Monk, of course, would simply be playing piano, but Ayn Rand and Phil Dick would get into a heated discussion about the nature of reality and other philosophical notions. Rand would be having difficulty with the idea of an afterlife in the first place; she was a pretty militant atheist. But then again, there she'd be. Perhaps she would be arguing that she was hallucinating, with Dick perhaps agreeing, but insisting that it was a shared hallucination of some sort, since he'd be relatively certain of his own existence. Relatively.

Rand would also be playing Scrabble, as she was addicted to it later in life. I never figured out what sort of nasty tricks the game would be playing on her, but I know that it would be doing something to mess with her head. On the other hand, for parity's sake, there should be something messing with Dick, but I never got a handle on that one.

Finally, after a lot of philosophical jibber jabber, with Rand arguing for extreme rationalism and P. K. Dick arguing that mysticism at least has a place in the grand scheme of things, Thelonious Monk would stop playing, turn to them, and whisper, "They're ready for us now," and lead them through the door. That would be the heavy hand of the author noting that music is more in tune with the universe than is philosophy and the arguments therein.

In order to even imagine writing such a work, I'd have to try to get inside the heads of both Ayn Rand and Philip K. Dick, as task that I hubristically imagine myself capable of doing, given that both have vast troves of writings to draw from and I'm a pretty sharp guy. The entire project would require a great deal of effort, though, and I'm also a pretty lazy guy, so for now I'll just settle for thinking about it every now and then.

As for the "getting inside the head of Ayn Rand," I will note that the biggest difficulty is figuring out where she'd depart from rationality and slide seamlessly into rationalization. Still, there were some pretty obvious basic prejudices in her life and works, and those would be the starting points.

She would, for example, have hated George W. Bush with a righteous passion, and despised everything about him and what he stands for. But I'll leave that little analysis for the next time I visit the subject.

[The title of this essay is taken from "Nietzsche Contra Wagner," wherein Friedrich explains just why he broke with Richard Wagner, and how Wagner's philosophy of life offended him. Rand, of course, never knew George W. Bush, but many people who have been, at one time or another, enamored with Rand, are now Movement Conservatives, a philosophy that Rand always despised. It's worth asking how this strange state of affairs came about.]

3 comments:

black dog barking said...

That would be the heavy hand of the author noting that music is more in tune with the universe than is philosophy and the arguments therein.

Music certainly has the more compelling vocabulary and diction. How were you going to restrain the theater audience from shushing the Rand and Dick characters?

Thanks for explaining the title. I was flashing on Fawn Hall for some reason.

James Killus said...

How were you going to restrain the theater audience from shushing the Rand and Dick characters?

I figured that we could always just turn up the mike on the piano from time to time to drown out the Rand and Dick characters, but it would work on the audience as well.

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