Anthem by Ayn Rand showcases a dystopia of the distant future. It’s about society’s effects on the individual. I’d like to take some time to discuss how it’s ideas might apply to friendship and romantic love. These applications may be old news to you, but I’m excited to share my thoughts and see what you think.
Just a note: I will insert a couple of passages from pages toward the end of the novel. If you haven’t read this book before, I exhort you now to please do so. You free spirits, and those striving to be, will especially fall in love.
Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds. I am not a sacrifice on their alters.
This quote brought to mind various types of friendship and obligation and loss of freedom. It reminds me of the friend who expects you to be available every time she wants to vent her life’s frustrations. Yes, we are friends, but have I not a say in the way my time is spent? Are my hours not my own? Do they now belong solely to you because we are friends? We’ve all had friends that have demanded of us to the point of exhaustion. That floor you wanted to mop, that time you wanted to spend with your children, the quiet hours of reading, yoga, exploring music, it all must be put aside when that phone rings. It’s called friendship. You owe it to them, right? You’d better answer the phone every time they call, or at least call back in what they consider a timely manner, else you risk jabs by guilt-laden remarks, or worse, threats to end the friendship. These friends find offense and disloyalty in their friends’ deciding that they don’t want to dedicate the required time placed on them.
There are those who demand of your time in order to exhault over worldly and spiritual achievements, or they want to jabber about the superficial. Or they want to ramble off a list of life’s pressing questions with no intention of seeking real answers, but instead, want an excuse to talk to themselves aloud while showing off their intellectual prowess.
The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.
Romantic relationships aren’t exempt. Oh no. Here comes the woman who loves antique shopping. And here is her man dragging along behind her. Who cares if he loathes the activity? Who cares what he’d rather be doing on his free day? Not her. She loves it, and it’s how she wants to spend their time together.
So to be fair, the next week he takes her to his favorite sports bar to watch the football, no, baseball game. She shudders to think of it, but she complies. It’s called compromise and fairness and ‘We’. She sits there miserably and everyone at the bar studies them between plays. Some say, “Poor wife. She looks miserable, and she’s here with this jerk who’s ignoring her.” Others say, “Jeez, she’s so miserable. Why didn’t she just stay home?” Still others will scoff, “Look at that jerk over there. He’s paying her no attention. Why did he even ask her to come?” Or, “That couple is not doing well.”
Have I missed any? I know that my examples are stereotypical, but I feel they’re more relatable for most. Can stereotypes have some grain of truth? Anyhow, there goes two perfectly good days in two people’s lives, hours of possible happiness watered down.
You ever had a boyfriend or girlfriend with you at some event they didn’t want to be at, and they were totally killing your vibe? Why were they there? Were you afraid because you wouldn’t know anyone else and you wanted a familiar face? Were you scared to introduce yourself to new people? To branch out?
So you made them come. And then you felt anxious trying to prove to them that they were wrong to not want to come and, see, they’re having a great time. Your ego depends on it. Did they have you stay next to them the whole night because they were miserable and you dragged them there, so you’d better not leave them alone?
Did you want to go out and dance but he or she didn’t want to, and you felt it would look bad or be unacceptable to dance with someone else or alone, so instead you stood in a corner with him or her, feeling resentment?
Hmm. Life. So many things to consider, right?
You will not go antiquing alone because of the dreaded “I”. You will drag misery with you to not be alone. “We” is an alter that is worshiped often to our detriment. Fear of being alone is the monster in the closet.
But what will I do alone, you ask yourself. And who will I talk to? And don’t we need to take photos as a couple actually doing things (and not always the same things) to post to social media? And how are we to show people how compatible we are otherwise? And shouldn’t she come because she’s mine, he’s mine, and so is her time, his time?
So Ayn Rand says, through Anthem, that my will is mine. And by extension I’ll say “My happiness will more likely lead to our happiness then my forced compliance will.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a believer in the ‘I” to a fault. There may be times you’ll have to show up for my cousin’s wedding. You just have to. I’m not on some high hypocritical horse. I just think it’s necessary that in all aspects of our lives we understand the whys of why we do things; that we analyze the various perspectives. Have I drained my friends of energy and talked far too long on a subject I’d already spoken of far too often? Yes. Absolutely. Will I be more conscious of it in the future? Will I take less offense if someone doesn’t want to join me in what makes me happy? Yes. Absolutely.
One of the things I’ve learned in the past year or two is to say no. To decide how I’d like the hours of my life to be spent and to actually spend them in that way. Friends will always want a companion for such and such. Sometimes I say yes, and I have a great time. Sometimes, I say yes, and then spend a good deal of time cursing myself for having done so. More often I say no, and I feel satisfied.
There will be times when our sense of duty will kick in and we’ll endure for a friend or love, but the reasons, I feel, should be worthy. ‘Because we are together’ or ‘because we are friends and you have to’ are not valid to me. God Himself granted us the power of free will. He made it so that we can choose, even whether or not we want to follow Him. He willingly relinquished some of His power to allow us choice. Any adult relationship of any kind should not equal control. It should not equal the relinquishing of free will. Do we do it anyway? Yes. Naturally. But we do it because our heart’s move us to. At least that’s the way I feel it should be done.
I insist that we do things with our heart’s consent as often as possible, and allow those in our lives to do the same. That may mean that we’ll spend more time alone. But spending time alone is a whole other gift we could talk about at length.
Thanks for making it this far down!