The “Differents”

by Jason Stotts

When people ask me why I’m an Objectivist, I usually take some time and explain why in detail. The short answer, however, is that in Objectivism I find the philosophy which I had always lived by implicitly brought out into the light in well-reasoned and articulate essays by Ayn Rand. To give a poignant example of this, I submit the following case in point.

Ever sense I can remember, I have felt different from those around me – I didn’t know precisely how or why, but I knew that I was different. I didn’t like to do the things that they liked: I felt no pleasure in their mindless diversions to pass their days, in their social networks and cliques, nor in their almost desperate desire to be liked. I had few close friends growing up. I preferred my own company and that of books and movies – at least in this company I could grow and develop. There had always been a few people who I felt were like me – others who were different as well. Growing up I never understood what the difference was, my best guess what that it was due to my intelligence.

To this day I still know few people who are similar to me – this number did increase significantly when I discovered philosophy and fellow philosophers, but even here the malaise has permeated.

Just the other day I was reading an essay by Ayn Rand, “Altruism as Appeasement”, and I found the following passage:

Between these two extremes of age – from college years to the culmination of a lifetime’s struggle – lies a silent psychological horror story. It is the story of men who spend their lives apologizing for their intelligence.

The following pattern does not enmesh all men of superior mental endowment; some manage to escape it; but, in our anti-rational culture, it strangles too many of them.

By the time he reaches college, a bright, sensitive, precociously observant youth has acquired the sense of being trapped in a nightmare universe where he is resented, not for his flaws, but for his greatest attribute: his intelligence. It is merely a sense, not a firm conviction; no teen-ager can draw such a conclusion with certainty nor fully believe so enormous an evil. He senses only that he is “different,” in some way which he cannot define – that he does not get along with people, for some reason which he cannot name – that he wants to understand things and issues, big issues, about which no one else seems to care.

His first year in college is, usually, his psychological killer. He had expected college to be a citadel of the intellect where he would find answers, knowledge, meaning and, above all, some companions to share his interests in ideas. He finds none of it. […]

Now, my own life was not quite as bad as it could have been. Although I know precisely the feeling of bewilderment for being hated for your virtue, I was fortunate enough to never doubt myself enough to conform to other’s expectations. However, I know all too well about the feeling of “difference” and its accompanying questions.

I hate to think about how many others who are out there, the “differents”, engaged in a struggle for their very life and who could benefit so greatly from the great philosophers like Aristotle and Rand.

If you are one of the “differents”, there are others like you – you are not alone. Never give up, never give in, preserve your intellect and character with your life – because that is what you’ll lose if you lose them.

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