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Does Objectivism Make You Happy?

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...I'd like to ask the original poster, Ariana, this: you are not sure if Objectivism has made you any happier. Well, what has been its impact? Has it had no impact at all? Has it made some aspects happier and others less happy? If so, what are examples of the latter?

My introduction to Objectivism was The Virtue of Selfishness. I was convinced ("converted") right away, but this mercilessly intense and polemical book left me feeling punch-drunk and woozy -- not a good feeling. I felt like I'd just been beaten up or run over by a truck. Maybe that was a sign right there... ;)

I think a respectful, teacherly, rational, systematic, step-by-step presentation of this new view would have left a feeling of lightness, sweetness and elation. Above all, all this "truth," if presented properly, would have and should have left me feeling LIBERATED. But it didn't happen that way...

To me, Objectivism as taught by Ayn Rand and the orthodoxy always seems to say two things (between the lines, but very loudly nevertheless): 1. Adhere to this rather arbitrary-seeming Standard Of The Good which we have delineated for you; and 2. Convert the world. It doesn't say "Follow this and you'll see how right we are from the get-go. Objectivism is much more practical and useful than your old belief-system." (Which may have been cobbled together--but it still involved a lifetime of hard effort.)

Objectivism (to me) never really says "Live your life!" "Be happy!" "Forget all this God and self-sacrifice nonsense--enjoy yourself!" Messages of this type--which seem to me to be the only correct ones--just don't come through. (Or at least they don't come through very convincingly--like the writer really means it and lives it.) On the whole, those many essay books on Objectivism make for very poor self-help books IMHO.

Objectivism has seemingly done an excellent job of freeing my mind of the false notions of religion, altruism, and statism. What it has not done is provide very good guidance for the right way to live. Objectivism is very good at all kinds of criticism and tearing down--but where are the positive and uplifting elements? Very muffled, I think. For me, Objectivism really hasn't "shown the way." Maybe the answer lies in psychology, as various posters have mentioned. (Actually-- Nathaniel Branden said the same thing.)

Objectivism imparts all the above knowledge to me, as well as gives feelings of excitement and exhileration which are literally unequaled and unprecedented ( referring to her novels.) All to the good... But does Objectivism really usefully, practically, and helpfully point you to "the straight and narrow?" Does it really cleanly uplift your spirit? Does it sweetly feed your soul?

Ayn Rand always seemed focused on criticizing the reader and changing the world. She even let the world get her down terribly on many occasions. Her focus on liberating the self and making the individual happy always seemed much less.

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1. Adhere to this rather arbitrary-seeming Standard Of The Good which we have delineated for you; and 2. Convert the world.

It's not arbitrary; its objective. All the facts of it are tied together. And no one says you have to convert the world! First, you have to take care of yourself.

It doesn't say "Follow this and you'll see how right we are from the get-go. Objectivism is much more practical and useful than your old belief-system."

What it has not done is provide very good guidance for the right way to live.

Maybe the answer lies in psychology, as various posters have mentioned. (Actually-- Nathaniel Branden said the same thing.)

Please, please, please -- re-read my first post. What you are begging for is HOW TO USE Ojbectivist epistemology. Please also see my blog entry Introspection, Part 1 for the answer!

But does Objectivism really usefully, practically, and helpfully point you to "the straight and narrow?" Does it really  cleanly uplift your spirit? Does it sweetly feed your soul?

Not directly. No philosophy does that directly -- it takes effort on your part. You must use Objectivist epistemology and introspect to gain what you are seeking!

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My introduction to Objectivism was The Virtue of Selfishness. I was convinced right away, but this mercilessly intense and polemical book left me feeling punch-drunk and woozy -- not a good feeling. ...
Ariana,

Your reply is really a critique of Objectivist polemic rather than of Objectivism itself. This is different from the issue raised in your original post.

Which of the following are you saying (if either):

1) That Objectivist writing talks a lot about the evil in the world and did not show you enough of the good. (I'm sure there is scope for a more explicitly "self-help" book for students of Objectivism; perhaps, someone will write one some day.)

... or ...

2) That Objectivism -- after you have understood it to the extent you have -- does not give you any ideas of how to pursue the happiness. Are you saying that Objectivism convinced you to stop doing some things that used to bring you happiness, but you do not know what else to to instead? Why not just do anything that makes you happy, as long as it is rational too? Is it conflict you feel ("everything I like is irrational") or is it emptiness ("I don't know what will make me happy")?

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AB wrote: "To me, Objectivism as taught by Ayn Rand and the orthodoxy always seems to say two things (between the lines, but very loudly nevertheless): 1. Adhere to this rather arbitrary-seeming Standard Of The Good which we have delineated for you; and 2. Convert the world."

Wow. To say I disagree would be lying via understatement. AB, do you have any examples at all to back up this very-loud-between-the-lines impression?

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My introduction to Objectivism was The Virtue of Selfishness. I was convinced ("converted") right away, but this mercilessly intense and polemical book left me feeling punch-drunk and woozy -- not a good feeling. I felt like I'd just been beaten up or run over by a truck. Maybe that was a sign right there...  <_<

Maybe that was your first mistake. I think that exposure to Ayn Rand's vision via Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged might be better than the path you describe.

Above all, all this "truth," if presented properly, would have and should have left me feeling LIBERATED. But it didn't happen that way...
Again, shoulda started with the fiction. I imagine you'd have a substantially different reaction.

To me, Objectivism as taught by Ayn Rand and the orthodoxy always seems to say two things (between the lines, but very loudly nevertheless):  1. Adhere to this rather arbitrary-seeming Standard Of The Good which we have delineated for you; and 2. Convert the world. It doesn't say "Follow this and you'll see how right we are from the get-go. Objectivism is much more practical and useful than your old belief-system." (Which may have been cobbled together--but it still involved a lifetime of hard effort.)

I'm not sure who you're hanging out with but I didn't get that at all (and I know most of the "big wigs"). Again, shoulda started with the fiction (and meet some new Objectivists).

Objectivism (to me) never really says "Live your life!" "Be happy!" "Forget all this God and self-sacrifice nonsense--enjoy yourself!" Messages of this type--which seem to me to be the only correct ones--just don't come through. (Or at least they don't come through very convincingly--like the writer really means it and lives it.)
That's funny, that's exactly what I got ("Live your life!"; "Be happy!"; etc.). Again, shoulda started with the fiction.

but where are the positive and uplifting elements?

That fiction thing again...

Fact is, I can hardly fathom what you are saying. Objectivism is about the only thing out there advocating these positive life-affirming things (in a non-hokey, non-New Agey way).

But does Objectivism really usefully, practically, and helpfully point you to "the straight and narrow?" Does it really  cleanly uplift your spirit? Does it sweetly feed your soul?

Yeah, it does. Not sure what you've been reading.

Edited by Gabriel_S
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The disgusting premise you try to smuggle in here and which runs throughout your post is that one's happiness depends on other people, "somehow". It does not.

Good observation of a piece, an aspect, of what I said. Some portion of our

happiness COULD be dependent on seeing our "agenda" forwarded, which in this

case would be for more people to see the wisdom of objectism. That (personally)

would increase my "happiness quotient". I imagine (possibly hallucinatorially) that

it would increase yours as well. ;)

In fact I would be somewhat concerned if it DIDN'T up your "happiness quotient".

So,.. any comments on the "tractor" analogy..?

-Iakeo

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The other type of "conflict" or "alienation" that one might experience is with other people. One now has a newly acquired sense of right and wrong, coupled with a validation of the idea that one should judge people. This can impact relationships with previous friends. Again, the perceived conflicts may be real or not, and it can take time to resolve them.

I can relate to that comment. I am much more aware of how irrationally people live. Being Laissez-faire, as long as they are not violating my rights, I don't care what they do. It's the little things like people asking me for handouts with a sense of entitlement or those who want to control my property that bug me. Once you have the realization of the true meaning of a "right" and how true rights are violated every day by our governments (from federal all the way down to the micro govts.) it can really offend your sense of justice.

Especially in dealing with my family. I can't understand the blind faith in religion my mother has and she irritates me when she tries to convince me and my wife to go to church.

I am definitely happier in knowing that I am living to support myself and my values (my wife and wonderful daughter) yet disgruntled that the world won't just leave me alone to do it.

In terms of "converting" the best you can do is point out logical contradictions and try to engage peoples minds. Some minds are just going to stay in neutral though. I've said this in other posts, I don't think it's worth the time to try to "engage" most people over 30. Just from my own observations of my peers (I'm 32) it seems like most people have made their philosophical beds by now.

Demetrius

Edited to clarify how peoples irrationallity offends me when it directly effects my rights. Laissez-faire I say.

Edited by ds1973
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My introduction to Objectivism was The Virtue of Selfishness. I was convinced ("converted") right away, but this mercilessly intense and polemical book left me feeling punch-drunk and woozy -- not a good feeling. I felt like I'd just been beaten up or run over by a truck. Maybe that was a sign right there...  :)

I think a respectful, teacherly, rational, systematic, step-by-step presentation of this new view would have left a feeling of lightness, sweetness and elation. Above all, all this "truth," if presented properly, would have and should have left me feeling LIBERATED. But it didn't happen that way...

Do you have a career? Do you have something you love doing, something for which you have a passion? Music, history, science? Anything? A purpose in life is a must.

Your life and happiness are your highest goals under Objectivism, but happiness comes from achieving. It's the indirect result of rational effort, and lots of it. When you have a career, and you pursue it with all of your talents, and achieve, happiness follows.

To me, Objectivism as taught by Ayn Rand and the orthodoxy always seems to say two things (between the lines, but very loudly nevertheless):  1. Adhere to this rather arbitrary-seeming Standard Of The Good which we have delineated for you;
It's certainly not "arbitrary". The alternative of life/death is very real. It's a concrete reality that can not be denied. It's something we must contend with.

and 2. Convert the world. It doesn't say "Follow this and you'll see how right we are from the get-go. Objectivism is much more practical and useful than your old belief-system." (Which may have been cobbled together--but it still involved a lifetime of hard effort.)

I disagree. When you follow Objectivism, you do see how right it is. I've yet to see anything remotely as effective.

Objectivism (to me) never really says "Live your life!" "Be happy!" "Forget all this God and self-sacrifice nonsense--enjoy yourself!" Messages of this type--which seem to me to be the only correct ones--just don't come through. (Or at least they don't come through very convincingly--like the writer really means it and lives it.) On the whole, those many essay books on Objectivism make for very poor self-help books IMHO.
Your life is your highest value. Pursue it. Pursue your happiness. This is the message of Objectivism. You won't find that in religion, nor in Kantian philosophy.

And, to be clear, you can't just "Be happy!". Happiness is something that must be earned through achievement.

You can't just sit around reading books and be happy.

Objectivism has seemingly done an excellent job of freeing my mind of the false notions of religion, altruism, and statism. What it has not done is provide very good guidance for the right way to live.

Earth to Ariana, reason is man's only means of knowledge! Fix reason firmly in her seat, and bring to her tribunal every fact, every opinion -- a paraphrasing of Jefferson.

Quick: what are the seven primary virtues?

Objectivism is very good at all kinds of criticism and tearing down--but where are the positive and uplifting elements?
My god! It's a rarity these days. It's a systematic philosophy. It's an integrated whole, and it's even presented in a nice book "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand", by Peikoff.

I defy you to find a bigger positive anywhere else.

Very muffled, I think. For me, Objectivism really hasn't "shown the way." Maybe the answer lies in psychology, as various posters have mentioned. (Actually-- Nathaniel Branden said the same thing.)

Well, I don't know, but the human mind is very complex. If you are having some difficulties personally, than that could require a deeper understanding of you. But, the philosophy of Objectivism does point the way out.

How long have you been at it? How much do you know? How have you employed the philosophy? What are your expectations?

Objectivism imparts all the above knowledge to me, as well as gives feelings of excitement and exhileration which are literally unequaled and unprecedented ( referring to her novels.) All to the good... But does Objectivism really usefully, practically, and helpfully point you to "the straight and narrow?" Does it really  cleanly uplift your spirit? Does it sweetly feed your soul?
Yes, but not without lots of personal effort. You need to push yourself hard to squeeze value out of life, and you must always be thinking. Not passively responding, but really inquiring about everything, and I don't mean inquiring only into philosohical issues, but about everything you do in life, from what you eat, to what color to paint your house, to what sort of music you enjoy.

Ayn Rand always seemed focused on criticizing the reader and changing the world. She even let the world get her down terribly on many occasions. Her focus on liberating the self and making the individual happy always seemed much less.

I disagree. She said she was not an advocate of capitalism primarily, but of egoism, and not an advocate of egoism primarily, but of reason. Or, words to that effect. She has also said quite emphatically that she is happy. She achieved a great deal, so there was good reason for her to be so.

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Thales: Thanks for the many thoughtful replies! :) Just don't assume Ayn or her teaching was perfect. Don't assume she said just the right thing, just the right way, at just the right time. She had elements of weakness and bitterness, just like all of us. Philosophy is like life: a process which continually evolves and, hopefully, ascends. It isn't a math quiz where you try for a "100." I certainly don't see Rand or Peikoff as paragons which got Reality and Reason right, right out of the box.

Maybe we need Deepak Chopra, Leo Buscaglia and Wayne Dyer to convert to Objectivism! :) Or maybe even (brace yourself, guys!) we need to read more of Nathaniel Branden who is utterly charming and gracious in person. He's certainly very at ease with himself and answers questions directly, sweetly, and very intelligently. (I've read much of his early stuff, when he was closer to Objectivism, but virtually none of the recent.)

Again, my thanks Thales, I need to mull over some of this...

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Or maybe even (brace yourself, guys!) we need to read more of Nathaniel Branden who is utterly charming and gracious in person. He's certainly very at ease with himself and answers questions directly, sweetly, and very intelligently. (I've read much of his early stuff, when he was closer to Objectivism, but virtually none of the recent.)

Have you read this?

http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/store/pro...sp?number=AR93A

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Ariana, my response is twofold:

1) Have you read Atlas Shrugged? You say,

I think a respectful, teacherly, rational, systematic, step-by-step presentation of this new view would have left a feeling of lightness, sweetness and elation. Above all, all this "truth," if presented properly, would have and should have left me feeling LIBERATED. But it didn't happen that way...

Objectivism (to me) never really says "Live your life!" "Be happy!" "Forget all this God and self-sacrifice nonsense--enjoy yourself!" Messages of this type--which seem to me to be the only correct ones--just don't come through. (Or at least they don't come through very convincingly--like the writer really means it and lives it.)

Atlas Shrugged does say that. And it says so in a gentle, systematic, respectful, teacherly, patient way.

You say that this sort of message doesn't come through in VoS, and if so, then there's a reason for it. Atlas Shrugged was the book where AR focused all her energy to show people at their best, how some people live it, and how others slowly and painfully arrive at it. VoS is a polemical book, as you said, to defend the ideal against the very, very, many people who would like to extinguish it. So, 1) the assertiveness and forcefulness of the book are part of the package, and 2) since it was written after Atlas Shrugged, it sort of assumes that the reader has read it already, and was exposed to all of the gentle and slow understanding of what Objectivism really is all about.

The second part of my response, and one you'll probably definitely not listen to is, you are screwed if you have Nathaniel Branden in your circle. I mean it, you've got such an uphill battle because of his influence. Not only has he led a miserable life (why is he still incapable, at this late age, of finding and retaining a woman as his wife, for example), but his horrible vitriole and self-righteous attitude towards Ayn Rand and Objectivism has poisoned the minds of many who trusted his judgments, thus causing THEM to develop cynicism and unhappiness in their lives ALSO. If you could somehow detach yourself from his influence, which will not be an easy thing to do because he's an old man and appears to have a lot of wisdom on the surface, and then read Atlas Shrugged all by yourself, without input and comments by him or anyone else in his circle, you would be WELL on your way. But somehow I don't think you'll do any of that.

P.S. I have read Nathaniel Branden too, watched an hour long interview with him, was even participating on his forum for a while a couple years back. What I can say with a very large degree of certainty is, his books during the earliest times, i.e. during and right after the Objectivist period, are some of his very best and brilliant works. As time goes on and his distance from the philosophy and its ideal grow, his intellectual output becomes progressively worse, less concrete, specific, precise, incisive, and more vague, unfocused, and bleak, until we arrive at the modern times when his intellectual output is NIL, when it should have been the highest. Take that for what you will.

Edited by Free Capitalist
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Maybe we need Deepak Chopra, Leo Buscaglia and Wayne Dyer to convert to Objectivism!  :)  Or maybe even (brace yourself, guys!) we need to read more of Nathaniel Branden who is utterly charming and gracious in person. He's certainly very at ease with himself and answers questions directly, sweetly, and very intelligently. (I've read much of his early stuff, when he was closer to Objectivism, but virtually none of the recent.)

Who is this "we" you speak of? I certainly don't need to read any more of Nathaniel Branden than what was published under Ayn Rand's direct approval. But then again I am happy with who I am and where I am going. Why do you think that your problem (and solution) applies to everyone?

Zak

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Thales: Thanks for the many thoughtful replies!  :)

You're welcome. :)

  Just don't assume Ayn or her teaching was perfect. Don't assume she said just the right thing, just the right way, at just the right time. She had elements of weakness and bitterness, just like all of us. Philosophy is like life: a process which continually evolves and, hopefully, ascends. It isn't a math quiz where you try for a "100." I certainly don't see Rand or Peikoff as paragons which got Reality and Reason right, right out of the box.

I think of philosophy as a means to understanding the world around me and myself, so that I have a compass by which I can guide myself.

If you're saying that people make mistakes in life, then I agree. The school of hard knocks is the way most people learn. Reality is always there bumping up against you in sometimes surprising and disappointing ways, but the important thing is to always be looking to get better by employing rational effort, both physical and mental.

Maybe we need Deepak Chopra, Leo Buscaglia and Wayne Dyer to convert to Objectivism!  :lol:  Or maybe even (brace yourself, guys!) we need to read more of Nathaniel Branden who is utterly charming and gracious in person. He's certainly very at ease with himself and answers questions directly, sweetly, and very intelligently. (I've read much of his early stuff, when he was closer to Objectivism, but virtually none of the recent.)
I know that N. Branden has lots of virtues, but he apparently also has some real vices that others have had to deal with. Diana Hsieh had a few pieces on her website on him. She used to be a big fan of his and even worked on his website.

I did read his "The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem", which was a pretty good book.

Again, my thanks Thales, I need to mull over some of this...

Sure thing.

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*cough* SIX *cough cough*

Seven is the number of Deadly Sins.

1> Pride

2> Independence

3> Honesty

4> Productiveness

5> Integrity

6> Justice

Drum roll please....

and the most important primary virtue is...

7> Rationality! [bang]

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Just don't assume Ayn or her teaching was perfect. Don't assume she said just the right thing, just the right way, at just the right time.

A first-hander does not assume any such thing about anyone, including Ayn Rand. But the fact of not assuming it makes it no less true upon inspection.

She had elements of weakness and bitterness, just like all of us.
She did not. She had elements of strength misinterpreted by her opponents as bitterness. I cannot imagine where anyone could find any "weakness" in anything Ayn Rand did -- I haven't seen anything that could be interpreted as such. But then I often assume people are more first-handed than they actually are.

Philosophy is like life: a process which continually evolves and, hopefully, ascends.  It isn't a math quiz where you try for a "100."

Philosophy is a not a process. Philosophy is a guide for living. If its premises are wrong, the the life lived by it will be less than it otherwise could be. And just because a 100 on the quiz happens to be really hard is NO reason whatsoever to throw one's hands in the air in despair and shoot for a 90. Again, I stress the importance of grasping that the ideal is what's practical. See Chapter 9 of OPAR.

I certainly don't see Rand or Peikoff as paragons which got Reality and Reason right, right out of the box.

It's not the persona of Rand or Peikoff which is of paramount concern. It is the ideas they came up with, which -- regardless of whatever other errors they made -- are true and useful for living, if one learns how to use them.

Edited by TomL
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  Drum roll please....

  and the most important primary virtue is...

7> Rationality!  [bang]

I stand corrected. Six DERIVATIVE virtues.

Actually, there are all kinds of virtues. It's just that Rationality, practiced consistently, embodies ALL of them.

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Does Objectivism make you happy? Does converting to the philosophy of Objectivism make a person happier, either immediately or down the road?  :lol:

Are you kidding? I used to have lapses of bitterness, cynicism, and frustration before I found Objectivism. Not to mention a desolate feeling of lonelyness whenever I was baffled at the irrationality of the world.

I was resigned to serving as a slave of my country (through the Israeli draft), and was about to give up on my dream - which was fiction writing. Objectivism gave me the moral backbone to resist slavery, pursue my dreams, embrace my values and enjoy life to the fullest.

Without Objectivism I would be a bitter computer engineer in Tel-Aviv, rather than an aspiring fiction writer in New York City. The difference between my life before and after Objectivism is like the difference between these two cities.

Nathaniel Branden if he thought people were happier after conversion. I asked after establishing a decent rapport with him and very casually. Then I watched very closely when he replied. He seemed astonished at the question, hesitated a small moment, but then answered right away in an evidently candid and forthright manner: NO. (We talked a bit more, but that was the gist.)

Asking Nathaniel Branden if Objectivism makes people happy is kind of like asking Judas if Christianity made him happy. No wonder he was astonished. It couldn't make him happy since he came to reject it, and was rejected by it.

Makes sense?

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So Ariana, have you read these replies? Are you not replying any more because you were upset by what was said? I certainly would be upset too, because it's really easy to like Branden on the superficial level, from everything I know he's a very easy-going and laid back kind of person. But then again, I never said he wasn't.

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I see no reason for converting to a philosophy if it doesn't make you happy: happiness is the one true meaning of the human life.

This is true. However, it easier said than done when you think there is a conflict between what is right and what makes you happy.

This thread has some examples of the mistake people make about the moral and the practical. The forum has many other examples.

It ends up being an issue of understanding what is philosophy and what is optional, of understanding one's own specific values, and of working through any apparent conflicts.

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I see no reason for converting to a philosophy if it doesn't make you happy: happiness is the one true meaning of the human life.

Meaning? Happiness is a derivative; a result of successful life. It is not a primary; you cannot achieve happiness by taking it AS a primary.

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This is true. However, it easier said than done when you think there is a conflict between what is right and what makes you happy.

This thread has some examples of the mistake people make about the moral and the practical. The forum has many other examples.

It ends up being an issue of understanding what is philosophy and what is optional, of understanding one's own specific values, and of working through any apparent conflicts.

Well, I've always believed true happiness couldn't be attained without leading a moral, healthy lifestyle where you strive to achieve your bliss, without sacrificing those ambitions for anything else. Happiness and pleasure are significantly different. So I do see it as the meaning, but I obviously have the sense to understand that it can only be achieved by the honest, productive life.

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Or maybe even (brace yourself, guys!) we need to read more of Nathaniel Branden who is utterly charming and gracious in person. He's certainly very at ease with himself and answers questions directly, sweetly, and very intelligently.

Nathaniel Branden did notice later in his life that Objectivists were not a happy lot. He addressed this quite well in The Art of Living Consciously : The Power of Awareness to Transform Everyday Life

His essential observation is that people in general, and Objectivists in particular, tend to deny their internal emotional states with the resulting unhappiness.

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