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“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours.”

What did Ayn Rand mean specifically by irreplaceable? It's her wording in quotes like this that I don't always understand completely.

asked Apr 08 '14 at 09:11

Collin1's gravatar image


edited Apr 08 '14 at 11:36

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦


answered Apr 08 '14 at 11:36

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Oh! I thought it was one of those things where, once you lose it, you cannot get it back. I don't know why I keep thinking that way.

(Apr 08 '14 at 12:58) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

Well, irreplaceable does literally indicate cannot-possibly-be-regained, but that sense didn't make sense here, so I set it aside for simply "precious". Others' mileage may vary, of course, so if there's a more sensible reading I'm all ears.

(Apr 08 '14 at 13:51) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Also, what did she mean by letting your fire go out, in more simpler terms?

(Apr 13 '14 at 18:23) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image
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The question didn't indicate where the quote comes from. It's from Galt's Speech in Atlas Shrugged, where Galt says:

The last of my words will be addressed to those heroes who might still be hidden in the world, those who are held prisoner, not by their evasions, but by their virtues and their desperate courage. My brothers in spirit, check on your virtues and on the nature of the enemies you're serving. Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, your love—the endurance that carries their burdens—the generosity that responds to their cries of despair—the innocence that is unable to conceive of their evil and gives them the benefit of every doubt, refusing to condemn them without understanding and incapable of understanding such motives as theirs—the love, your love of life, which makes you believe that they are men and that they love it, too. But the world of today is the world they wanted; life is the object of their hatred. Leave them to the death they worship. In the name of your magnificent devotion to this earth, leave them, don't exhaust the greatness of your soul on achieving the triumph of the evil of theirs.

By "fire," Ayn Rand (through Galt's words) is referring to "greatness of soul," innocent love of life, endurance in the pursuit of it, "magnificent devotion to this earth" -- heroes. The abstract term for what Ayn Rand is talking about is "Benevolent Universe Premise." Refer to that topic in The Ayn Rand Lexicon for an excellent introduction to it.

There are a few other passages in Ayn Rand's nonfiction that dramatically express the Benevolent Universe Premise. One of my top favorites appears in Ayn Rand's 1962 review of Victor Hugo's Ninety-Three (the review was published in The Ayn Rand Column, September 16, 1962):

When people look back at their childhood or youth, their wistfulness comes from the memory, not of what their lives had been in those years, but of what life had then promised to be. The expectation of some undefinable splendor, of the unusual, the exciting, the great, is an attribute of youth—and the process of aging is the process of that expectation's gradual extinction.

One does not have to let it happen. But that fire dies for lack of fuel, under the gray weight of disappointments, when one discovers that the adults do not know what they are doing, nor care....

Ayn Rand's article goes on to describe what Ninety-Three meant to her in her own youth, as fuel to keep her own "fire" burning. By "fire" she is referring to the aspirations and expectations most often found in youth, innocently believing that personal productiveness and happiness are possible and attainable in life if one pursues them energetically, devoutly, and by the right means.

Other favorite passages of mine expressing the Benevolent Universe Premise include:

  • Introduction to The Romantic Manifesto, "As a child, I saw a glimpse of the pre-World War I world...." She describes it briefly and mentions the many commentators who have expressed great admiration for that era. "I used to wonder how men could say it, know it, yet give it up ... whimpering occasionally about the hopelessness of life." She continues:
Renunciation is not one of my premises. If I see that the good is possible to men, yet it vanishes, I do not take "Such is the trend of the world" as a sufficient explanation. I ask such questions as: Why? -- What caused it? -- What or who determines the trends of the world? (The answer is: philosophy.)
  • Introduction to the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Fountainhead, which explains, "Religion's monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meaning and connotations of a rational view of life." She mentions concepts like "exaltation," "worship," "reverence," and "sacred." She continues:
...such concepts do name actual emotions, even though no supernatural dimension exists; and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or ennobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions. What, then, is their source or referent in reality? It is the entire emotional realm of man's dedication to a moral ideal. [...]

It is in this sense, with this meaning and intention, that I would identify the sense of life dramatized in The Fountainhead as man worship.

It is an emotion that a few -- a very few -- men experience consistently; some men experience it in rare, single sparks that flash and die without consequences; some do now know what I am talking about; some do and spend their lives as frantically virulent spark-extinguishers. [...]

It is not in the nature of man -- nor of any living entity -- to start out by giving up, by spitting in one's own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption, whose rapidity differs from man to man. ... But whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man's nature and of life's potential.

If one doubts the power of philosophy in relation to man-worship and dedication to a moral ideal, a good overview can be found in the Lexicon topic of "Philosophy." Refer, also, to Ayn Rand's books, For the New Intellectual and Philosophy: Who Needs It. And for concretization, there are Ayn Rand's novels. For examples of spiritual "fire" in various stages of burnout, observe especially characters such as Henry Cameron, Gail Wynand, Dominique Francon (fully rekindled in the final ending), Dr. Robert Stadler, and Cherryl Brooks (at the end of her life). Ayn Rand is talking about emotional "fire" -- and its fuel.

answered Apr 15 '14 at 01:36

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Apr 08 '14 at 09:11

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Last updated: Apr 15 '14 at 01:36