Two Paths: Ayn Rand's Legacy

Before the American public there were two paths that could be taken. One was open to all, accepting of all and sought to help all along their way. The other path only allowed those who were willing to leave their friends, family and all of humanity behind to travel upon it. Though anyone was free to choose which path they would take, only one allowed for an increasing number of travellers. The other narrowed until there were but a few individuals who could maintain their footing and even that number dwindled as the capacity of this path decreased.

Though the two paths were so different in the demographics that followed them, they were plainly viewed by all: Those on the growing path noticed the diminishing numbers of people who chose the one which shrank. They were close enough to call out to them, or so they thought, but for some reason, the people on the other path couldn’t hear them. It could have been that they were simply ignoring what they considered lower class citizens, but it could also have been the fact that all of their focus had to be on every step they took. The reason for this requirement was that, not only did the trail become more treacherous, but the few on this crooked path had a tendency to bump one another off. It was like a perverted game of “King of the Mountain”, except the mountain was a small winding road that allowed only the most ruthless of players to advance. And even worse than the threat of other players and shrinking landscape, was that at some point there was no return.

Along the trail individuals not deemed strong enough were weeded out, by either falling off the trail or by crossing over one of infrequent connecting bridges that appeared from time to time. These bridges allowed for the selfish to cast off their illicit ways and gave them the opportunity to change their course. It provided them with a chance to share in the common good, to succeed together and move forward the agenda that best suited the group. These bridges flowed both ways, but only those who became misguided ever chose to go from the path of many to the path of the few, because they were fraught with peril and of those who attempted crossing them, most fell to their doom. Other than these connecting bridges, the paths simply ran parallel to one another.

If one were to look over the edges of the growing path, they might see nothing at all. They might be faced with the uncertainty of just how far the drop might be. They might even find that they had lost their balance looking into this abyss, but there was always someone there to assist them, to provide a stability that they might not have had otherwise. And on several occasions, the uncertainty they saw looking over the edge was lifted like a fog, as explanations were provided and fears were alleviated. Whether this insight was forth-coming or not, the support one received was enough to get an individual’s focus back on the goals ahead. This however, was not so of the other path, the one that shrank as one progressed: There was no support to keep one from falling upon the jagged rocks below. The only comfort that anyone could gain while walking this lonely path had to come from one’s self. Any reassurance was possible only by what one could muster up from within, which made the journey that much more dangerous, as every step could proof to be their last. Compiling any fears that might cause hesitation was the fact that, at some point there was no going back. Inevitably, there was no way to turn around and walking backwards usually led to one outcome.

There were of course those who had walked the more dangerous of the two paths and eventually found a place in which they could lay down and rest for as long as they chose. At this last stop, there always seemed to be a vast, open meadow, as lush and beautiful as one could imagine. Beside the greenest grass that one could imagine, there was food of all varieties available with a mere thought. No matter what one’s palette desired it could be seen as the weary traveller entered this wide open space. As for any other needs that anyone could have at this point, they were all met before the words could be formed. Whether one’s desire was the fanciest ‘this’ or the sharpest ‘that’ all needs wants and desires were fulfilled in this final utopian setting, but none who had made it this far had ever found peace in this magically deceiving place. More often than not, those who lay in the grass found it quite course as the serrated edges scratched their skin. Those who did not know of the harsh feel of the grass had simply not taken the time to relax: They had come to a point where they should have been able to let their guard down and enjoy the fruits of their labor, but even the fruit tasted sour as one by one they would taste every apple, pear, orange, steak, cake, or whatever food they cherished the most, only to toss it aside in disgust. In due time, every one of these individuals realized that what they desired most in life could not be enjoyed by one’s self. What was the point of reaching this point in their lives, if there was no one to talk to about the perfect meal before them or the miraculous sunset that just ushered on another temperate night. Nothing looked as good or tasted as good or felt as good as it would have looked, tasted or felt had it been shared with someone important. The only thing that someone who found themselves in this position could take pride in was the fact that had they been as ruthless as possible, someone would remember them: Had they knocked off enough competitors or committed as many atrocious acts as they could, they would live on in infamy in someone’s mind and to be respected or feared was an accomplishment in itself.

Had they questioned this belief however, they would have realized that those who had chosen the other path would be remembered by far more people and those memories would be fond and they would be passed down from one generation to the next. Had they taken the time to listen to those who travelled on the other path, they would have realized that it is better to be loved by many than despised by few. And as was the case more often than not, as they lay their heads down in the irritating sawgrass.

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