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Yes, this newsreel after 9/11. "I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline," Ayn Rand wrote in The Fountainhead, "The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need?" she asked. "I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body." (From Ayn Rand's New York)
It was dark when her boat docked in New York Harbor. Catching a glimpse of the Woolworth Building, then the tallest building in the world, it has been quoted tha [Ayn] Rand said it looked like "the Finger of God," "It was dark then," Rand's words say as read in the film Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, "it was kind of early evening, I think about seven o'clock or so. And seeing the first lighted skyscrapers--it was snowing very faintly, and I think I began to cry because I remember feeling the snowflakes and the tears sort of together." To Rand, New York was what life was about: a purposeful pursuit. It was a place where achievement abounded. "New York is activity and activity is life--that's what Ayn Rand would say" says Dr. Harry Binswanger, a long-time associate and editor of The Ayn Rand Lexicon. New York was not only a place different in appearance, but it represented a different way of thinking and another philosophy. To Ayn Rand the skyscrapers of New York weren't built out of steel, stone, bricks and mortar, they were built out of adherence to the only moral philosophy she believed the earth had ever known: individualism.
"America is the land of the uncommon man, " Rand wrote, "the land where man is free to develop his genius--and to get its just rewards." New York is the capital of a place where such thought prevails, where uncommon people prosper--and as a result, the financial capital of the world. New York symbolized what Ayn Rand idealized in her novels--man as a creator. The city fostered invention and ingenuity.
The New York skyline stood against the Atlantic looking towards a corrupt world as a proud achievement boasting of what could happen when men played their proper role. New York showcased the magnificence of the Empire State Building, George Washington Bridge and the RCA Building, structures which surpassed anything ever built. "I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline," she wrote in The Fountainhead, "The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need?" she asked. "I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body."
Rand would live in New York for most of her life.
"Chicago was always a second-city," Dr. Binswanger noted. "In New York the whole area from Wall Street to the Cloisters is one solid man-made environment." And in Los Angeles, the people were less the doers, creators and achievers than the schemers and others who just wanted to be famous. "In New York, people seemed happy with their work and weren't waiting for the weekend."
Many New York sites have either direct or philosophical connections to Ayn Rand. While she set both of her major works in New York for the most part, most of the specific locations and characters were imaginary. But New York was where she imagined them, and they are likely her interpretations of real-life places and people. A statue that stands across from Saint Patrick's Cathedral depicts Atlas holding the weight of the world on his shoulders. Atlas Shrugged, of course is named after the same mythological god. "If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders--what would you tell him to do?" Rand wrote, answering, "To shrug."
Walking up Park Avenue from 28th to 36th Street, Rand finalized a way to prove her ethics, the root of the concept "value" in the concept "life". "It is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible.