Saturday, October 03, 2009

Hoisted From Comments: A Reminiscence of the NBI

In comments, tenaj gives us this intriguing personal snapshot of the Nathaniel Branden Institute, and an alternative view to the one currently propogated by the Ayn Rand Institute regarding Branden's influence on Rand.

I'll skip when I first came across Rand and save it for later maybe. In August of 1960 I was reading Atlas Shrugged and going through a behavioral quit smoking program. One of the instructions was not smoking one hour before going to bed (to sleep I presume)and so I would have my last cigarette and read some more of Atlas. Then I would be in a place where I didn't want to stop, so I would light up another cigarette. And so on. I loved the book, had recently gotten a divorce, was teaching first grade and now considering it as a real career instead of something to do until I had children. So as I was finishing with Atlas and with cigarettes my mother saw an ad in the Sunday Inquirer that Objectivist Lectures-NBI- on Rand were coming to Philadelphia. And I immediately decided to go. BB [Barbara Branden] gave the lectures and the rest was history for me, as I took it very seriously.

I had decided to quit smoking because I could feel what it was doing to me. I felt that I could not change things in my life until I quit. How's that for Neuro Linguistic Programming. So I entered a world where all the players smoked, ritualistically with holders no less. And I was not tempted because I was happy I no longer wanted to smoke. So it created a boundary for me in my identification with BB. She was quite lovely and I thought at the time, very intelligent. So it was possible to be a woman and be both was the message I got. NB, AR, AG and LP [Nathaniel Branden, Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan, Leonard Peikoff] gave guest lectures over the two years I went. I attended LP's philosophical lectures on the history of philosophy in New York the summer of 62 and Mary Ann Sures on art in the summer of 61. I never asked a question because I had read Atlas carefully and felt I knew the answer as soon as anyone asked a Q. Then I would compare what I thought to the answer from on high. I loved it when Rand was impatient with a Q. You see now I know the difference between the content of a question and the intent. Rand could pick up on the intent and often responded to it. BB and NB always responded to the content as I remember. An important distinction for anyone to know who goes before groups for Q & A.

But all the while unbeknown to me I was observing all sorts of things and storing them in my data base unfiled. So yes I have lots of visual memories of all of it. I can tell you how BB wore her hair, what clothes she wore, her verbal mannerisms, NB's gestures and many things about LP and Rand as they lectured and presented. But my dots were not connected until many years later.

The most important thing was that I found my own mind that I had lost in school. And I began a journey.

I will say that had NBI not existed, I would have been under the spell of Atlas for awhile but would never -and I mean never- have explored her philosophy, become an Objectivist and been able to begin to apply it to my life. Without NBI Rand's ideas would have entered the ether. This is Nathaniel Branden's great contribution. I c an personally attest it is true. He gave her so much that she could never have achieved on her own, with or without LP or any of the rest of them. I never knew him in those days, so the hateful things I have read don't mean anything real to me. I do know that he was generous to a fault. He gave her so much and she threw it away because of her desire to possess another human being. Everything that Objectivism is today comes from the root of NBI. No one would consider her in the field of philosophy (and maybe no one should)if not for NB. I have not considered here the fact that NB gave her his youth, his mind, his sex, his labor and all the while he was her muse. He brought her all his relatives and friends from Canada and without all that he laid at her feet she would never have finished Atlas and/or it would not have been the book it is. (Please don't think I still love it, but I do not deny its impact on our culture.)

And no one ever even comes close to mentioning the elephant in the room which I hope to go into somewhere. When I do they will truly want to kill me.


Anonymous said...

Blime, how old is this guy tenaj, he first came across her 49 years ago teaching first grade? I'd estimate about 70 - 80 and he remembers all this?

Dragonfly said...

Come on, not everyone in the age group 70-80 is a drooling demented wreck. My experience is that memories of long ago can be very detailed. If you get older your short-term memory may deteriorate, but old memories often remain vivid with many details.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, just posing the question, just something about this sets off some suspicions. From what he describes of his life up until 1960, he sounds well into his 20's. Why has he waited so long to tell all and to us?

tenaj said...

More idiots even here. Get yourself 15 years of psychoanalysis and you also will have a memory when you are 75. Assuming you don't decide to atrophy after that. Waiting so long?

Well have you read most of the Rand sites? Not the most intelligent people around. And certainly not open to criticism. I have no intention of going near them and starting a flame war.

It's probably best that I put what I know and intuit on my own blog and paste some of it here. Why here? Because you have someone intelligent in charge IMHO.

I'll tell you this. To read BB's posts on objectivist living is to be right back in a Q&A 50 years ago. Same old same old. No growth.

tenaj said...

And may I say I am not going to tell you what you couldn't have figured out yourself. It's all there if you know how to read critically. There aren't any secrets.

Reminds me of Freud's The Wolfman whose identity was secret and who was supported by psychoanalysts as Freud's last living patient. On a subsistance level. A German woman journalist found him and began to interview him. He expressed surprise that she had found him. It was easy she told him. (And no one else in all those years figured out how to find him.) He berates the fact that if only he hadn't gotten gonorrhea it all wouldn't have happened. And she says, The clap? Oh I've had the clap! The Wolfman is astonished at her nonchalance. He says that if he had had grandchildren like her then he would have been able to dismiss it like her. She was with him at the nursing home the day before he died. No psychoanalysts were there of course.