Teenage years are a challenge as they are for pretty much everyone. Amidst a chaotic mindset of figuring things out and easing out because we’re still so young, imagine having a stimulus that completely turns your world upside down and makes you question everything you believed in so far.
That stimulus, for me, was a book. It’s a tad dramatic because I used to be a teenager who took books very seriously at the time. Novels generally indulged me more than they should, perhaps because they presented to me a world that I would have rather been in. After Harry Potter, a novel that had a profound impact on my mind was The Fountainhead, by one of the most highly debated authors ever, Ayn Rand.
For those who do not know, Ayn Rand has authored a couple of extreme philosophical novels that advocate a few things that we cannot practice in normal life. However, during the read, Ayn Rand’s extremist utopia captivates a reader in such a way that everyone dreams of being the protagonists of her stories. So was the case in The Fountainhead. The book changed everything I thought I believed and directed me towards redefining all my principles – which was in reality an impossible thing. But it messed with my head anyways. Back in the day, I assumed that everything the book advocated was idealistic, and the real world sucked because people weren’t even parts of what Ayn Rand said they must be.
Now that I’ve grown over it, a memory of the book and everything it propagated recently resurfaced and I noted that the impression has completely changed. Everything that Ayn Rand stands for is utopia in her books, but absolutely inappropriate and impractical in real life. Her presentation of alternate philosophies where she goes as far as defending rapes to defy the established norms, seem more like desperate lashings of a literary genius mind that simply cannot fit in within her real world. Her theories of objectivism and capitalism, no matter how effectively she explains them, I cannot find to be realistic. Now that I look back at it, it feels like the appeal that her books had to me as a teenager was just a reflection of my lack of understanding of how the real world works, especially in my part of the world.
Her books are still extremely popular and so is her philosophy. While they no more seem like the perfect versions of life to me like they did back when I first read her, I admit that they’re still one of the most curious things in the world of literature. But now it feels like people who radically follow her school of thought are great minds alright, but ones with a very limited idea of the vastness of philosophical possibilities. To believe in and advocate something so extreme does not seem appropriate to me anymore.