We All Stand on Others’ Shoulders

Sunni's picture

And I am long overdue in acknowledging three stalwart gentlemen whose shoulders have helped carry me further than my grownup self sometimes thought I could go.

But first, some back story.

I was introduced to individualism as a philosophical idea with my first reading of The Fountainhead in the late ‘90s. Much as I appreciated having a word to identify what had long been my attitude toward others, for a very long time I had difficulties with Rand’s depiction of the concept. That also being my initial exposure to Ayn Rand herself, I didn’t comprehend that she considered her novels first and foremost philosophical works, and thus the framework of her fiction was by intention quite different from other novelists’. It bothered me that Roark was so... insular for so much of the story. Despite interacting with other characters, he never seemed deeply engaged with any of them—not even with Dominique, which particularly bothered me. I later understood that Rand’s characterization of her heroes qua hero required, in her view, a larger–than–life quality; thus most of them never seemed to show a normal human need for others that we as social creatures have to some degree. (This is less true for Atlas Shrugged in some respects, but I still maintain that most of the relationships depicted therein are far from a typical healthy relationship.) As a result, for the longest time I thought—despite the niggling in my brain about it—that that’s how healthy relationships should look and work. Need I say I had problems with this in several ways?

When I was first online in the late ‘90s, I spent most of my time exploring the freedom philosophy. Having never met a libertarian—much less an anarchist of any flavor—I wanted to drink deep of its many flavors. I fairly quickly tired of the “rant du jour” approach (foreshadowing, anyone?); and I think that helped make encountering Greg Swann stand out even more. I no longer remember how I discovered his site (I am fairly certain that it wasn’t the site I’ve linked to, though) nor even what I read, but I do remember being extremely moved by it and immediately writing him an impassioned email. That’s how we met. We have never been in steady nor close contact, but the fact that he infused genuine humanity into a philosophy that I sensed was parched of it has put me forever in his debt. While Lobo was the one to help me become a pro-freedom activist, Greg was the person who showed me why it is so vitally important ... even if I couldn’t elucidate that back then. I know that his style doesn’t mesh well with others’ approaches to freedom—and I do have what I consider to be small (or perhaps stylistic) issues with some of what he has written—but I still enthusiastically recommend Man Alive!. If nothing else, it will almost certainly get you to thinking; and that is never a bad thing.

I first met Peter Saint–Andre via the Liberty Round Table discussion list, if memory serves. As I recall, he wasn’t tremendously active, but he impressed me with his truly classical education and attitude. I quickly came to consider him someone like me in several senses, only much better: Peter has the ability to discuss “academic” ideas in an extremely approachable way ... and also in a way that suffuses them with life. As I wrote when I reviewed an instantiation of his web site at Sunni’s Salon, it is an “abundance of jewels that I have barely explored.” (NB: All links in my review redirect to his blog.) For those who would like a few good starting points to this very deep well, I highly recommend The Tao of Roark; his “Selected Fragments, by Epicurus”, which is a small piece in his consideration of this philosopher; and Ayn Rand and American Culture. As Peter pointed out in a recent email, this essay not only places the ongoing Freedom Family squabbles in an enlightening context, it helps explain why not everyone swoons over Swann.

Last—and in this position only because I met him last—is the only one of the three whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person. I don’t even remember how we met online—a function of advancing age and having met a lot of people online—but Warren Bluhm immediately stood out. He is a kind, thoughtful, creative soul whose creations and friendship have bolstered and delighted me—and the snolfs—many a time over the years. He sent me a copy of his book Refuse to be Afraid when it first came out, and I have to confess: Although it arrived at a time when I desperately needed to heed his words, I was so unable to overcome my fear that I couldn’t even think about the book long enough to review it. But Refuse to be Afraid never strayed far from my bedside; perhaps sensing that the dénouement of my relationship with Lobo was approaching, I read from it with increasing frequency, especially when I’d start to feel fear surging. Without Warren’s book, I would not have been able to take responsibility for what I needed to do, nor to stand firm and strong when I felt anything but. Refuse to be Afraid was one of the first books I unpacked in our new home, and it occupies a place of honor—in the small bookshelf that is one of the first things a visitor sees upon stepping into my home.

Thank you deeply and most kindly, Greg, Peter, and Warren.

No, Thank You!

Thanks for the kind words, Sunni, but please know that you are an inspiration to us all, too.

As to Epicurus, you might enjoy an experiment I'm working on to write about his ideas in a series of letters between two friends. I'd love your writerly (and humanly) opinion as to whether this approach works.

Finally, I appreciate the reminder that I really need to read Refuse to be Afraid!

Wow. Thanks for the kind words

You, Sunni, and this little place in cyberspace have meant a lot to me as I work out what it is I believe about individualism and freedom. I am gratified beyond words that I was able to return the favor with my little book.
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"The purpose of government is to defend the shores, deliver the mail and stay the hell out of my life." - Lee Sherman Dreyfus