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Waiting to hatch…

Okay, I need to go a little deeper today (no pun intended regarding my last entry). Anybody up for it?

Have you ever read anything by Ayn Rand? She once said, “The genius must have his freedom and his independence”. Having been born in Russia, she rejected Communism and fascism. When she moved to America in her mid-20s, she embraced a system in which economics have to fit man, not the other way round. This “Objectivism” is the idea that reality is an objective absolute. One must perceive and understand reality to survive.

I have read “Atlas Shrugged”, a 1000+ page tome, and now am half-way through “The Fountainhead”. I am not much of a reader, usually allowing myself to get bored before I finish most books, but her stories captivate me. I am at the point where I want to scratch my eyes out because she gets SO verbose, and I am tempted to skip entire sections. But I realized this morning that maybe that’s part of her point. 

We human beings are getting less and less patient. We speak about nothing sometimes, just to fill the empty space. We shop for things we can’t afford, just to have something to do, and allow the debt we carry to motivate us to further anxiety and consequent action, thus filling up the space again. We.. just.. can’t.. wait….

While Ayn Rand’s characters are usually lofty movers and shakers, the industrialists of the early 20th century, my frame of reference for her message is more simply illustrated.

Many years ago, I worked at a petting farm in southern New Hampshire. Springtime was birthing season so there were baby animals being shot out of their mothers on a daily basis. For the most part, the little ones lived and grew up to provide entertainment for the thousands who flocked there each summer to coo over their cuteness and get as close to nature as many of them ever would.

One of the main attractions, and the part I found most objectionable, was the chicken coop. I’ve never been a huge fan of chickens — of any birds, really — they are quite literally a bunch of peckers and I’ve never enjoyed that bite. The big draw in there was an incubator with a glass top where one could stand for hours watching the baby chicks hatch.  

Mother Nature has a wonderful way of maintaining the integrity of a population, especially in the animal world. It’s called, “survival of the fittest”. An animal that is not born healthy will be removed from the population by its peers, for its own sake. Sometimes it is even removed by its own mother. Humans are not like this. We will prop up even the most gravely deformed in an effort to better ourselves (if not necessarily the deformed one), because humans, unlike animals, are capable of compassion. I’m sure there are plenty who would argue with me about this, but for the most part, even our sweetest pets would not hesistate to take out a member that presents a threat to the whole. 

The hatching of a baby chicken can take a long time, up to 24 hours. A tiny poke hole in the shell can inspire one to stand for hours watching, waiting. Some have the patience, most don’t. They would ask me, “When is it going to come out? I want to go see the baby goats…” Early on, in response to their impatience, I would reach in and try to pull off a chunk of shell in order to facilitate a quicker escape for the chick. But I soon learned, almost without exception, that my doing so was a death sentence for the chick. Part of nature’s process in determining the life-worthiness of the baby chick is whether it is strong enough to release itself from its confines. If not, then the hatching process ends prematurely and the dead chick is thrown unceremoniously in the trash can. Even if the chick makes it out but is clearly too weak, the farmer will help the process along with a quick snap of the neck. This fate is far less cruel than putting the weak chick back into the poultry population and allowing it to be pecked to death by its own — wouldn’t you agree?

Humans have developed a system that protects the weak and demonizes the strong. I am not necessarily trying to make a political statement, and even in saying so, I am diminishing the strength and integrity of my opinion by trying to absolve myself of responsibility in case someone doesn’t agree with me. There are many in the world that I don’t agree with, but on some level I have to appreciate those that are willing to uphold their own integrity by not wavering in their convictions. Granted, I would prefer that those convictions be MY convictions, but that’s often not the way it works. 

My generation (I am at the very tail end of the baby boomers) represents a dilution of ideals. On some level, that’s a good thing. We have moved in directions previously thought impossible, made innovations that have allowed for a whole new generation of thinking. But without a sense of faith that new ideas will hatch to create an even stronger population, we get anxious. We worry that unless we save the hatchlings of tomorrow’s society, they will not survive — we become all-knowing, all-caring, thus weakening the ability of the next generation to gain their own strength.  

We have to stop worrying so much that without us, the world is going to collapse. Nature always finds a balance by adapting to whatever we impatient humans do to upset it. Our greed and hunger for power create armies of weak people who would not survive on their own within the greater population. Though I am only half-way through “The Fountainhead” I am seeing this theme emerge.

We must strengthen those around us by not becoming impatient. It is in our struggle to survive that we form the integrity that allows us to contribute to society in ways that will provide sustenance for those who are less strong because, as human beings, we have a responsibility toward compassion. But compassion doesn’t mean picking away at their shell for them, thinking we are doing them a favor; it means allowing everyone the opportunity to hatch on their own.

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