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Who else felt that he is James Taggart in real life?


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Hi guys, 

I am currently finishing up Atlas Shrugged, and I can't help but feel that I am James Taggart. I am honestly shocked and ashamed of the philosophy that I have been practicing. I realize that, even though I haven't hurt anyone intentionally, I am not a man of high character. I realize that, in relationships, I preach that love should be given without being earned. As I look back at my past actions and decisions, I am extremely disappointed in how I acted. 

I am still young and just recently graduated from high school. But I know that I need to change. For those in here, did you identify with James Taggart and if so, how has your progress to change been? 

 

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Don't get too caught up in beating up on yourself. The important thing is you haven't done anything really irreparable, you've learned and now you're going to do better in the future. Nobody is born knowing it all, even in ethics. We all have to learn these things and not everybody will learn them at the same time or same pace or same way. Consider too that you're much better off than James in that you're figuring this out just as you're ceasing to be a kid anymore, people by nature with a lot to learn about being a person who thus can be expected to not do and be so great at stuff, whereas James made it to around midlife and still was a louse.

I never personally identified with James because I'd come to many of the same ethical and other philosophical conclusions in Atlas Shrugged before I read the book and was already trying to live according to such, but there are definitely plenty of people around here who have had similar experiences as you when they first read this stuff. I can't remember who it was, but I'd swear I've seen somebody around specifically cite James as who they thought they were shamefully similar to too. Peter Keating is another character from one of Rand's other novels that people have often said they thought they had been far too akin to after reading the book he was in. It's far from unprecedented for somebody to realize after reading this stuff that they want to make significant changes to how they conduct themselves. :P

 

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While I didn't identify with James Taggart from the novel (it was Dagny), it must happen to most people at points in their lives where they realize that there is something about their character that they dislike, want to change, or (painfully) even loathe. As bluecherry noted, no one is omniscient, and we all have tiny little individual brains pitted against the vast, vast universe -- you're guaranteed to operate out of ignorance, which in turn will influence your character, which in turn will need corrected at some later point in your life.

This process, which I will term "living," is not something to get down about, but instead something to be glad about! "Wow, isn't this great? I'm the only known creature in the universe who can recognize problems, even within himself, and then make changes to fix them!"

EDIT: I don't want to imply that I was some awesome person like Dagny, just that I identified with her. In fact, I had plenty of crap I wanted to change, including (but not limited to): being an asshole to strangers, putting others before myself/guilt, awkwardness, etc. These things become part of you, and inevitably take a really long time to fix. You need to correctly identify what's going on, figure out a way to fix it, and then apply the fix repeatedly, sometimes for years!

However, you don't necessarily need to know everything that's going on within your head to fix a problem. For example, I knew I didn't want to be a jerk to strangers, so I first tried to recognize when that was even happening (this wasn't always obvious to myself, though it was to others), and my makeshift "fix" was to respond in some, any, way that I wouldn't normally, because I didn't even know which other way I should respond. This went on for some time until I started noticing how people responded to different things in different contexts, and then I was able to see for myself different things that worked, and refine my responses. Over time, my person changed until this new knowledge of how to deal with people actually became part of my core habits/character.

BUT, it wasn't until years later that I figured out some of the reasons behind my initial behavior! And, I still don't know all of the reasons.

Changing yourself is definitely possible, and in the spirit of core humanity, my advice is to not get too down about anything you don't like and instead just start (don't wait!) figuring out some better way to do it, and then do it!

Edited by JASKN
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