Pain and Suffering Do Not Matter (by Ayn Rand)

She survived it. She was able to survive it, because she did not believe in suffering. She faced with astonished indignation the ugly fact of feeling pain, and refused to let it matter. Suffering was a senseless accident, it was not part of life as she saw it. She would not allow pain to become important. She had no name for the kind of resistance she offered, for the emotion from which the resistance came; but the words that stood as its equivalent in her mind were: It does not count–it is not to be taken seriously. She knew these were the words, even in the moments when there was nothing left within her but screaming and she wished she could lose the faculty of consciousness so that it would not tell her that what could not be true was true. Not to be taken seriously–an immovable certainty within her kept repeating–pain and ugliness are never to be taken seriously.

— The thoughts of Dagny Taggart, from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”


One of my favorite things about Ayn Rand’s philosophy is that pain and suffering are not granted top billing. Contrast this with a philosophy that, for example, poses a man dying on a cross as the essence of existence and morality; or self-sacrificial martyrdom and terrorism as the true free pass to “utopia.” Or, contrast it with the utopians who seek to make earth heavenly by turning it into a totalitarian, egalitarian hell.

The moment you set out to make suffering important — to say nothing of all-important — is the moment you have damned life on earth … for yourself, and others.


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