To date, more than three dozen individuals have been Spotlighted as members of the Poetic Justice Warrior Society, yet none have garnered the high level of Comments and Likes, all in admiration and affection, as Neil Peart. Among many other things, Neil Peart can be described as an individualist with an active mind (redundancy intended). When he focused on something new to learn and experience, he did it. When asked in an interview if there was anything he wished he had tried, his answer was no. The world he desired, he won. It exists.
Of course he is our contemporary. Neil’s creative genius, life experiences, and profound humanity are readily available online, to all of us, and to countless others as personal memories. This adds mightily to the responses’ authenticity. A fine example is an online forum of dedicated individualists known as Galt’s Gulch, several of whom are committed fans of Peart’s influence and achievements. Here we will Spotlight some of their reactions to the passing of Poetic Justice Warrior Neil Peart. After all, EW from Wisconsin wrote in galtsgulchonline, “I often wondered if Rush, or at least the songs you mentioned, held Objectivist values, but never took the time to find out. Thanks for sharing this info.”
To understand why the perspective of Galt’s Gulch denizens matters, JB from Florida shared a link in the Gulch to Anthem Vault. It had publicized the Rush album 2112’s dedication to the “Genius of Ayn Rand,” and its progressive rock rendition of her 1938 novella Anthem. To jog memories, the album included the song The Temples of Syrinx whose chorus begins “We are the Priests.” To the priests, “All the gifts of life, Are held within our walls.” They are the philosophers of collectivism, of speech codes, of the illegalization of the word “I.” Every utterance must be couched in the words “We” and “Our.” Think of that the next time you listen to a politician on the campaign trail.
OC from Ohio elaborates, “I bought the album 2112 because I liked the cover, and it seemed to have something to do with science fiction. It just blew me away. Soon after, I looked up Ayn Rand in the library, and read Anthem. I believe that liner note introduced many of my generation to the works of Ayn Rand, and earned Rush the undying hatred of most rock critics. But I didn’t care; the music was like no others, and the lyrics espoused thought and values. Many other kids didn’t care about critics’ opinions either, and they built their fan base album by album, tour by tour, and over the period of about 20 years they became legendary.”
This attitude is essential to individualism, why active minds gravitate to Galt’s Gulch, and explained by prime protagonist John Galt himself in Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged,
The vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth.
Neil Peart was uniquely connected to the minds of his closest male friends – they would insult each other mercilessly. When asked by his wife why he talks to his friends this way, Neil would tell her that its how they communicate their mutual respect and affection. Its a guy thing. If they weren’t comfortable in their own skin as individuals, and didn’t see the same sense of life in the other, the insults would create no value. As he writes in his 1975 song Anthem,
Know your place in life is where you want to be. Don’t let them tell you that you owe it all to me. Keep on looking forward; no use in looking ’round. Hold your head above the ground and they won’t bring you down.
Elevating our spirits in the wake of Peart’s passing was CDR from Minnesota, “Thank you for an insightful, compassionate epitaph. A friend called me on the eve following Neil’s death to lament the loss of his hero. His initiation into thoughts about Objectivism were sourced from Rush (mine from Lao Tzu). “We have clients in order to build” I recall him conveying quite some time past. I’m happy that I know the origin of this and can share deeper with him on the expression.”
We are not only grateful for the achievements and influence of our Poetic Justice Warriors, they also inspire us to live the one life we have to the fullest. For example, author Robert Begley says “My top goal in 2020 is to become a world-class speaker. This 10 minute video shows I’m not there, also it shows the lasting impact of Neil Peart, whose lyrics about love, reason, and happiness have inspired me since I first heard them, back in 1977.”
Thirty-three years later, Begley’s book Heroes, Legends, Champions: Why Heroism Matters, explains what heroes are and why we need them. But before we praise and ratify heroes, “we must properly identify them, we must understand who and what they are. And what they are not.” He explains that heroism rejects self-sacrifice as a virtue. Understood correctly, heroes rationally pursue their highest values, and shed bright light on our path for doing the same. As RR from New Hampshire related, “I discovered Rush in junior high with Moving Pictures, and ever since then they became my favorite band with tremendous influence on my life. There’s never been a rock group which more closely matches my sense of life.”
Honoring heroes is life-fulfilling when their actions are guided by noble principles, and their achievements ennoble our consciousness. On the Rush album 2112, Peart wrote about human consciousness, as it could and should be,
Through astral nights, galactic days. I see the works of gifted hands. That grace this strange and wondrous land. I see the hand of man arise. With hungry mind and open eyes.
Metaphorically, Galt’s Gulch. Peart’s active and hungry mind saw heroes to emulate in great literature, and one of his greatest was Ayn Rand’s fictional, heroic individualist Howard Roark from The Fountainhead who believed that “The truth is not for all men, but only for those who seek it.” As OC continues in galtsgulchonline, “The career of Rush parallels the career of Howard Roark. Despite the critics disapproval, they succeeded on their own terms.”
While Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism had a singular influence on Peart’s early career, his enthusiasm for it waned over the years in favor of what he called bleeding-heart Libertarianism. Interestingly, Rand is considered a godmother of Libertarianism, even though she rejected its misuse of her ideas. As poetic justice would have it, we have many great ways to remember the man whose advice was to “be your own hero,” and humorist: “When I’m riding my motorcycle, I’m glad to be alive. When I stop riding my motorcycle, I’m glad to be alive.”