Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Shelter from the storm

Wasn't last night's storm great. Dramatic as it was, and as violent as it was, the amount of destruction was relatively limited, allowing us (most of us) to enjoy it rather than fear it.

It offered another reminder that (unlike other animals) human survival demands more than just adjustment of ourselves to nature -- we sometimes need to protect ourselves from nature. That's what we humans do -- our unique means of survival is to adapt nature to ourselves; to mollify nature's dragons and make them more humane, and therein more enjoyable.

I was reminded of a passage in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, describing Francisco D’Anconia looking out Hank Rearden’s lounge window on a stormy Pennsylvania night. Rearden is hosting an elegant gathering while a wild storm rages just the other side of the glass:

Francisco looked silently out at the darkness. The fire of [Rearden’s steel] mills was dying down. There was only a faint tinge of red left on the edge of the earth, just enough to outline the scraps of clouds ripped by the tortured battle of the storm in the sky. Dim shapes kept sweeping through space and vanishing, shapes which were branches, but looked as if they were the fury of the wind made visible.

“It’s a terrible night for an animal caught unprotected on that plain,” said Francisco D’Anconia. “This is when one should appreciate the meaning of being a man.”

One side of the glass is turbulent, the other pacific. Inside is the man, Rearden, whose hospitality makes the refuge from the storm possible. Outside and on the horizon are Rearden’s steel mills that make the house both physically and financially possible, and that on this particular evening provide the reason for the gathering and celebration. The house itself provides the shelter from the storm -- a refuge from it if you like -- and also the prospect over it, and with it the luxury of time and safety for contemplation about the storm, the mills, the landscape, the celebration, and the relationship the occupants have with all three (an opportunity that Rand in this passage has Francisco seize for us).

This is what it means to be fully human.

“It’s a terrible night for an animal caught unprotected on that plain,” says Francisco, underscoring that it’s not at all terrible for the people enjoying an elegant gathering on his side of the glass – it’s delightful. It’s delightful to be a human being and to do what human beings do, and to laugh at the dangers and the dragons outside.

To paraphrase PJ O’Rourke, only God can make a storm, but only man can stand inside and laugh at it.

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24 Comments:

Anonymous Wasps said...

You know, it was reading shit like "Francisco looked silently out at the darkness." that made me put the book down and regret buying it.

Does Rand at least know how to write non-fiction?

7/11/2007 07:21:00 pm  
Blogger Luke H said...

Her writing was so visual. If they can get their act together, the movie could (potentially) be fantastic.

7/11/2007 08:48:00 pm  
Blogger Greg Bourke said...

Is Alas to objectivits as the bible is to fundies?? i.e. the singular creative/literary experience that blew their adolescent minds?

In both cases it seems the singular experience tends to colour personal metaphor and populates the mind with its characters.
(Disclaimer - haven't read bible or Atlas all the way though but I did just finish Moby Dick)

If you want a movie of the travails of the wise engineer and the sage architech, change Rand's name to JANE AUSTEN and market Alas and Fount as lost works!!
Guaranteed to be made into a movie starring Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom and produced by Brucenheimer!

7/11/2007 09:19:00 pm  
Anonymous Andrew B said...

Thanks Pete. I enjoyed your post, having thought of that passage when we had a storm here in Sydney recently and when I saw what was going on in NZ's NI this last week (90,000 homes without power! Seems the engineers are shrugging).

I remember Chris Lewis saying one night that he felt anger whenever he thought of some people that would look at the pages of The Fountainhead and sneer. Looking at the first and third posts reminds of that now.

7/11/2007 09:32:00 pm  
Anonymous CC said...

"I was reminded of a passage in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged", oh dear, are you really so myopic not to see the innate contradictory hilarity in comments such as this? "Francisco looked silently out at the darkness" Worshiping second rate literature, hmmm...sounds familiar, actually it reminds me of a passage in Battlefield Earth...

7/11/2007 09:43:00 pm  
Blogger Julian said...

According to our great leader "New Zealand settlements being repeatedly hit by adverse weather conditions may have to consider moving". While Francisco looked out the window and marvelled at the ability of the individuals to tame the environment, our great leader sees no option but to submit to nature.

Julian D

7/11/2007 11:45:00 pm  
Anonymous george said...

Having spent most of my adult life at sea or in the bush, I appreciate the trappings of civilisation. There is something of benefit in bad weather and natural phenomena, particularly when there is a big element of uncertainty. It should bring some humility at the far end and a gratitude. Taken outside our safety zone we are more fragile than the critturs. The minor shock that water does not flow from a tap and light and heat does not come on at a switch and the freezer is now rotting, can unhinge the previously secure and assured. A good thing in my book. The whole partying voyage of the SS New Zealand could come to a shivering halt in a 10 second earthquake and our securities and priorities demolished. We would see the best of human nature and the very worst; but probably a darned sight less of the arrogance that we are lords over nature. We merely have the giftings to live within it if we are not lazy.

7/11/2007 11:49:00 pm  
Blogger Abhishek Krishnan said...

Hi, your blog seems to be really nice!! Are you interested in exchanging links? My blog is at http://changingtechnology.blogspot.com/ and it’s about the latest gadgets and the technology used. Do let me know if you are interested. I too will put up a link to your blog on mine. Thanks.

7/12/2007 01:01:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of you should take leaf out of Francisco's book and have some faith in Western civilisation and markets; stop fearmongering and cowering under the bed over global warming, Muslims and whatever the scare du jour is.

BTW do you know Muslim interests (Dubai Airport) are looking at purchasing a chunk of Akld Airport?

Muslims iz comin' Billy Bob, Muslims iz comin!!

That'll scare the bejesus out of you lot. Remember you like globalisation now ;-)

7/12/2007 07:37:00 am  
Anonymous Wasps said...

"I remember Chris Lewis saying one night that he felt anger whenever he thought of some people that would look at the pages of The Fountainhead and sneer. Looking at the first and third posts reminds of that now."

If I was seventeen and looking for a source of inspiration, I wouldn't care whether it was great writing either. But go ahead, drink the kool-aid, miss the irony behind glorifying man with such appalling literary style and convince yourself that I'm just a crab in the bucket -- despite the fact that I haven't said anything against her message.

7/12/2007 08:21:00 am  
Anonymous Sus said...

"BTW do you know Muslim interests (Dubai Airport) are looking at purchasing a chunk of Akld Airport?

Muslims iz comin' Billy Bob, Muslims iz comin!!"

Yes, because all Muslims think alike, don't they? How naive. How condescending.

7/12/2007 09:54:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, because all Muslims think alike, don't they? How naive. How condescending.

Sure is. Good for you if you don't think all Muslims are members of the Borg collective.

But have you checked out SOLO lately? I'm pleased la Perigo and others have at last been honest enough to say outright that Islam=Muslims - something I've said all along - and therefore the "Death to Islam" is a thinly disguised elimination call.

Someone tell them then that Muslims could well be buying into AIA. Hopefully they'll emigrate or find a high window.

7/12/2007 10:26:00 am  
Anonymous Sus said...

Anon, you raise an interesting point.

'Death to Islam' a thinly disguised elimination call? An elimination of what?

I suggest it's an elimination of barbarism ... anti-freedom, anti-progress, anti-capitalist, etc, all of which I agree wholeheartedly.

Never confuse elimination of barbaric belief with that of human beings.

Dubai - now there's a conversation. It's an economic mecca & doubtless detested by the various factions of fundamentalist Muslims for its association with the western infidel. But hold the applause. It's hardly a bastion of personal freedom, either.

7/12/2007 11:03:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I suggest it's an elimination of barbarism ... anti-freedom, anti-progress, anti-capitalist, etc, all of which I agree wholeheartedly.

Never confuse elimination of barbaric belief with that of human beings."

Pretty sophisticated stuff, eh? You cannot separate the ideas from the people who hold them - Islam=Muslims as they say. So what's actually being suggested here? That the 1.2 billion people who worship Islam must be "eliminated"? What does "eliminated" mean in practical terms? How will you achieve "Death to Islam"?

Firing up the ovens?

Or does being an internet pundit mean you never have to think things out to that degree.

You people are going to go batshit crazy if Dubai investment gets the green light here.

7/12/2007 12:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Sus said...

"You cannot separate the ideas from the people who hold them - "

Q: Why would you dump everybody in the same box?

If you need it spelled out, here's an example. How about we work to 'eliminate' - your term - infant female circumcision for starters? Where's your problem with that? The pen being mightier than the sword and all that.

"You people" etc.

There you collectively go again. Who is that?

7/12/2007 01:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice try at changing the subject.

I have won this hands down. It's taken some time, but the people on SOLO (or most of them), have now openly admitted that Islam=Muslims in respect of "Death to Islam", which they previously strenuosly denied.

It's just too bad that PC defended them in the first place.

I'll leave it to the swift boot of karma. Keep worrying about snakes on the plane ;-)

7/12/2007 03:08:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all cached PC. You can't beat the RSS feed.

If you are going to allow your attack dogs to come after me again by digging up old bones I will take it all the way this time.

Venomous hatred of ethnic groups has no place in this country. There is no such thing as thought crime.

7/12/2007 05:46:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Ruth's deranged madness is showing, demonstrating again why she's been asked not to be here.

7/12/2007 06:00:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's let John Key decide who is deranged.

My rational comments or the spittle flecked 'Death to Islam' hate screed.

I didn't want this resurrected PC. This is your doing by reposting it on SOLO.

7/12/2007 06:20:00 pm  
Anonymous Pub Talk said...

Ruth must be an idiot who looks like someone who dropped out of school at the age of 12. One minute she posts message here as Ruth and the next one she posts as Anonymous. She is infatuated with John Key. She berates people who post messages in blogosphere because they don't have money (not involved in sharemarket) and at the same time she herself has a blog. That means only for one thing and it is to attract readers perhaps ones who don't have money like me. It would be sad fuck for anyone to just write stuff for blogging without anyone coming to read it.

7/12/2007 06:20:00 pm  
Blogger Mitch said...

"How will you achieve "Death to Islam"?"

Well, you start by "eliminating" those who ACT on their barbarous, anti-freedom, anti-progress, anti-capitalist ideas.

The enemy must be demoralised. They must be shown that their ideas provide them with no hope. This was accomplished successfully with other groups of individuals who acted on similarly demented beliefs (Nazis and WW2 Japanese).


Now: "I have won this hands down. It's taken some time, but the people on SOLO (or most of them), have now openly admitted that Islam=Muslims in respect of "Death to Islam""

It's the "in respect of "Death to Islam"" part that I'd like to see you prove here Anon. Where have you seen a call to eliminate all Muslims? Would you point me to the admission please? I've been on the thread that I believe you are talking about, and I have seen no such admission.

Also, what exactly is it that you believe you have accomplished? If you are (or are intending to start) throwing "racist" around, I would like to know who you are.

7/12/2007 06:32:00 pm  
Anonymous HateSpeechWatch said...

I didn't have a blog -I do now.

http://hatespeechwatch.typepad.com

This belligerent man has no excuse for scratching around in search engines and maliciously posting something from over 18 months ago written on a long extinct blog, for no apparent reason except to dredge up an old argument and start a fight. Then there is faux outrage when he gets what he was trolling for. Go figure.

7/13/2007 03:59:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Not for the first time, I have no idea what you're talking about. I'll wager that no one else has any clue either.

7/13/2007 04:25:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right. I don't believe a pedant like yourself does not keep a close eye on your intellectual property, but to be nice I will give you the benefit of the doubt here.

Someone (I still assume you- and the buck stops with you since it is under your name), resurrected and reposted a blog entry from Oct 06 referring to Perigo being 'smeared' and stuck it at the bottom of the 'blue' on Solo. It didn't stay there very long as it had vanished when I checked back 1-2 days later.

If it was not your doing I suggest you refrain from letting others have free rein with your IP - as you post under your real name it makes you vulnerable to legal action.

As to me being deranged - the only person the MSM thinks is deranged is you - and you have done it to yourself over Global Warming.

7/14/2007 07:20:00 pm  

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