Friday, March 5, 2010

The Virtue of … Objectivist “Proselytizing”

By Joseph Kellard

All the recent talk on the Harry Binswanger List about the sales and recommendations of “The Virtue of Selfishness” reminds me of the only time I recall giving that book to a perfect stranger.

Several years ago, a Jehovah's Witness family in their Sunday best was making the rounds proselytizing door-to-door on my block. They, or some other indistinguishable family, would come around occasionally, maybe once a year, and on this particular day they sent a young girl, say 10-years-old, to knock on my door.

When I opened it and said hello, she handed me a small, thin black book of excerpted Scripture. When I accepted it, the proverbial light bulb went off in my head.

I told her to wait a minute, as I climbed the stairs to my room and grabbed a copy of "The Virtue of Selfishness." I returned to the door and handed it to her, while her parents remained standing on the sidewalk at the front gate. The girl took it, thanked me and walked away. I watched out my window as she looked at the cover and showed it to her parents as they strolled to my neighbor’s house.

I never saw that girl again, and for all I know the book went in the garbage when she got home, or in the gutter on the drive there. On the other hand, perhaps she kept the book and, when old enough to understand its brilliant content, read it and went on to read Ayn Rand’s other books. Dare I speculate that she’s an Objectivist today? Who knows.

But what I do know is that I was satisfied giving that young girl something she’d never get at her church: the opportunity to face a lifetime with self-esteem and happiness.

* I made minor grammatical and spelling changes to the original post.


Anonymous said...

When I was a young private in the US Army, I lived in a sort of "dorm for grunts" where the average residents age was probably 19, and the smell of stale beer was constant. I remember making this comment to a fellow soldier about the whole scene I was surrounded by, a stranger really, clean cut, sober, out of place in this barbarous confluence. This guy then handed me a copy of The Fountainhead. I never saw him again after that. I read part of it. Put it down. Then years later (mabye a decade) picked it up and read it,and loved it, and it changed my life. If the way in which a book is presented to someone is unique, at some point, they may appreciate that, and read it. Even if the little girl never reads the book, or any Rand book, she may view that encounter with you as her official initiation to a world, with "many" ideas, rather than the world she was doomed to begin in.

Joseph Kellard said...

Anonymous: Thanks for telling your interesting story. I remember perfectly well my long road to finally picking up a book by Ayn Rand. It started at about 12, when my older sister was reading the 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead, and I was in my mid to late 20s when I first picked up Ayn Rand's interview with Playboy. After that, I finally picked up The Fountainhead and was captured by its story and ideas. I then turned to The Virtue of Selfishness and read all her books after that.