“We the Living” was the first fiction that Ayn Rand has completed after fleeing proletarian Russia in 1926. The book was published after 10 years. The heroine, Kira Argounova, displayed strong will, integrity, and ambition that no amount of social movement was able to stop her from pursuing.
Along her journey to her ultimate dream of becoming an engineer, she experienced love from two different men coming from the complete opposite sides of the social spectrum at that time. This peculiar situation gave her the opportunity to express her sincere and fearless thoughts that not just subliminally impacted the other characters’ life decisions, but also the struggle as a whole. Allow me to bask in her brilliant mind as I share with you some of my favorite lines from one of history’s most badass fictional characters:
On engineering as a woman’s profession:
“It is the only profession for which I don’t have to learn any lies. Steel is steel. Most of the sciences are someone’s guesses, and someone’s wish, and many people’s lies.”
Kira is a no-bullshit-allowed-type of person. She knows what she wants and ardently pursues it no matter how screwed up the society was. She does not allow her environment and her circumstances to decide her fate.
On owing a duty to the society:
“What is society?”
“Society is a stupendous whole.” (her cousin Victor)
“If you write a whole line of zeroes, it is still – nothing.”
It is admirable to be a patron of your own country by fulfilling social obligations and contributing to the community. But like Kira, I also believe that you must first nourish yourself before you can truly give to society.
On going against the majority:
“I think that when in doubt about the truth of an issue, it’s safer and in better taste to select the least numerous of the adversaries.”
Going against the flow is not always bad. Sometimes, it is the most sensible thing to do and Kira does it without twitching; just full of badass-ery and conviction.
On life’s purpose:
“What better purpose can he live for?” (Andrei Taganov)
“Don’t you know that there are things, in the best of us, which no outside hand can dare to touch? Things sacred because, and only because, one can say: ‘This is mine’?”
Empathy and compassion is impossible if you do not take care of yourself and your own aspirations. Life’s purpose should not be limited to what you can do for others. The S.O.P. in an aircraft in case of emergencies is to put on your own life mask prior assisting other passengers who need help. The same principle applies in life. How can you be of service to others if you do not look after yourself?
“Can’t you enjoy things that are useless, merely because they are beautiful?”
We often tend to overanalyze things that we forget to appreciate its beauty. Finding beauty and happiness in the ordinary is the key to avoid insanity in this world full of negativity and very impersonal interactions due to social media. Admirably, Kira always knew to stop and smell the flowers even before technology took over our social lives.
“Because we are living beings – there’s something in each of us, something like the very heart of life condensed – and THAT should not be touched.”
Life is a wild roller coaster. That’s why we should be strong enough and aware enough that there will always be something precious inside us that will remain: our capacity to love.
And finally, on being alive:
“Why do you think I’m alive? Because I have a stomach and eat and digest the food? Because I breathe and work and produce more food to digest? Or because I know what I want, and that something which knows how to want – isn’t that life itself? And who – in this damned universe can tell me why I should live for anything but for that which I want?”
The story did not have a happy-ever-after conclusion. I wept when I was reading the last few chapters, in the passenger seat, in a running vehicle, with the window open. But Kira is undoubtedly one of the strongest characters that I have ever read about. She was not strong for a female character; she was just effing strong as a person. Clearly, Kira can easily be your new favorite super heroine. Or spirit… character?
Like it? Share this post so your friends can also rekindle (or get introduced to) one of the great works of Ayn Rand! Thank you for reading. (: Here’s a virtual donut as a token of my appreciation: