Love and Hate at First Sight

I've touched on the subject of this article in my others on individualism. It's about recognition, particularly that kind of recognition of people which is sometimes referred to as "intuition" or "first impressions." Most of us have had the experience of meeting someone, and after only the briefest of encounters, had a very distinct impression about the kind of person our new acquaintance is. While we are tempted to dismiss these, "first impressions," because we do not like to judge people unfairly, it is surprising how often they turn out to be correct.

It is because one is not consciously aware of the source of these first impressions, they can be mistaken for intuition or some kind of inexplicable insight. You might be surprised to learn Ayn Rand addressed this phenomenon, and not only explains it, but emphasizes the importance of it, and its relationship to one's, "sense of life."

In her article, "Philosophy And Sense Of Life" [The Objectivist—February 1966] Ayn Rand wrote:

"A given person's sense of life is hard to identify conceptually, because it is hard to isolate: it is involved in everything about that person, in his every thought, emotion, action, in his every response, in his every choice and value, in his every spontaneous gesture, in his way of "coming at things," in his manner of moving, talking, smiling, in the total of his personality. It is that which makes him a "personality. "Introspectively, one's own sense of life is experienced as an absolute and an irreducible primary—as that which one never questions, because the thought of questioning it never arises. Extrospectively, the sense of life of another person strikes one as an immediate, yet undefinable, impression—on very short acquaintance—an impression which often feels like certainty, yet is exasperatingly elusive, if one attempts to verify it."

The reason why this instantaneous recognition is so, "exasperatingly elusive," is because it's nature, and what it is that is recognized is never identified. Why it is recognized at all, Rand correctly concludes, is because what a person is affects everything about them, from their interests to what they smile or frown at. In a poor and poorly understood way, the old idea of "body language" had a factual basis in this aspect of human nature, expressed in one's total being. Like it or not, what you are shows in everything you do, including every habit of speech, every gesture, every taste, and every expression.

In this article I am going to describe four kinds of instantaneous recognition and make explicit the characteristics or attributes that are the implicit, and usually unidentified, sources of that recognition.

The five kinds of instantaneous recognition I will identify are:

  • The evil of the evil.
  • The evil of the good.
  • The good of the evil
  • The good of the good.
  • The good of the highest good, which is love.

  • The ability to instantly recognize what people are is not common in everyone. While some people are very sensitive to those things in a person's bearing, speech, and behavior that are indicative of the kind of person they are, other, probably most, people are undiscerning regarding the kinds of people they are particularly impressed by. In many cases, the very attributes that ring alarms for the perceptive, are the same attributes the semi-conscious are enamored of or deceived by. There is no other explanation for those favorably impressed by movie stars, sports stars, politicians, and other assorted celebrity low-lifes.

    Interestingly, it is those whose sensitivities which are the least discerning who are most likely to rely on their impressions without reservation, while those whose ability to "size a person up" almost instantly, are the most cautious about first impressions, and the ones always willing to give the apparently evil, the benefit of the doubt, and the obviously good, a "I'll wait 'til the chickens hatch," attitude.

    The Evil Recognition of the Evil

    In this, and the following, the "details" of what the evil experience as recognition must be inferred. We cannot experience anyone else's consciousness directly and have only what another says and does to base that knowledge on. In general, you can take the action and words of the evil, the hater of the good, as expressing his views and values, but unless you are evil yourself, whatever the evil feels and thinks, you and I can only infer what that experience is like.

    The following is from a description of the development of the evil who despise the independent individualist, because the individualist has no need of others, particularly not second handers and parasites. The second hander has a profound need of other people—but he needs them not as equals, but as victims or as objects to be used. It is for the kind of people he can use he develops the sense that gives him instant recognition.

    "He counteracts [his sense of inferiority] by telling himself that he is superior, since he can deceive anyone; and, seeking reassurance, he multiplies the practice of deception. Wordlessly, as an implicit premise, he acquires the belief that his means of survival is his ability to manipulate others.

    "He is torn by the conflict of two contradictory desires which he dares not identify: the retarded child's desire to be led, protected, told what to do—and the manipulator's desire to seek reassurance by reasserting his power of command over others. ... To preserve his illusion of superiority becomes his overriding obsession.

    "Superiority—in what? He does not know. He does not function conceptually. He judges people, events and actions 'instinctively,' i.e., not by what they are, but by what they make him feel. Putting something over on people makes him feel superior- he has long since forgotten (and has never fully known) why.

    "He has developed a special kind of 'instinct' for appraising people: he can 'smell' the presence of weaknesses in people, of pretentiousness, uncertainty, self-doubt and fear—particularly fear (not fear of him, but of their common enemy: reality). Such people make him feel like 'a big shot,' and his act is successful among them." [The Objectivist—July 1971, "The Age Of Envy" by Ayn Rand]

    This sensitivity or "instinct" for recognizing those like himself is developed as part of the process of the second handers development of his own dependent parasitic nature.

    The Evil Recognition of the Good

    The second-hander does not need to develop a sense for recognizing the individualist, that recognition and accompanying antipathy are instant.

    "Notice how they'll accept anything except a man who stands alone. They recognize him at once .... There's a special, insidious kind of hatred for him. ... They need ties. They've got to force their miserable little personalities on every single person they meet. The independent man kills them—because they don't exist within him and that's the only form of existence they know. Notice the malignant kind of resentment against any idea that propounds independence. Notice the malice toward an independent man...." [Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, The Fountainhead, "The Nature Of The Second-Hander"]

    The following continues Rand's description of the development of the evil:

    "But when he meets the better type of man, he goes to pieces: what he feels is terror. It is by means of his own terror that he recognizes authentic self-confidence. ... The manipulator feels impotent and in mortal danger; his terror of the man is not personal, but metaphysical: he feels stripped of his means of survival.

    "There is only one source of authentic self-confidence: reason. Hence the intellectual con man's impassioned hatred of reason and of all its manifestations and consequences: of intelligence, of certainty, of ambition, of success, of achievement, of virtue, of happiness, of pride. All these are phenomena from a universe that would destroy him." [The Objectivist—July 1971, "The Age Of Envy" by Ayn Rand]

    It is unlikely the second-hander, the "intellectual con man," as Rand dubs him, could identify the root of his panicked hatred of the self-sufficient, independent individualist, because that kind of identification requires a rational evaluation, something the second-hander does not do. His recognition is not rational, it is emotional—but if it were rational it would mean, "I am a parasite; I need hosts to support me; I need other people; I need the kind of people who need other people; this man needs no one, this kind of man is nobody's host and cannot be made into one; if everyone were like him, I would die."

    The Good Recognition of the Evil

    In general, the evil, in all his manifestations from second-hander to con man, is not recognized by most people, because most people are not themselves independent or self-sufficient but are variations of the second-handers themselves, and if not outright con men, are, through evasion, pretense, and "faking it," at least cheats, attempting to enjoy what they have not earned, from their reputation to their wealth. These are the one's the evil has "a special kind of 'instinct' for," the kind of people he likes, the one's among which he feels, "like 'a big shot,' and among which his act is successful." There is no reason for them to recognize him for what he is, he is one of their own, and they are more likely to view him as a, celebrity, or even a, hero, rather than the kind of evil he truly represents.

    The independent individualist will recognize the evil for what he is at once, and the most common means of that recognition is the reaction of the evil toward him, which frequently displays itself in the form of random rationalizations and baseless accusations as these suggested by Rand:

    "'This man,' he cries, 'is arrogant and selfish!... He defies the gods or the will of God!... He is intransigent, intractable, inflexible!... He defies the will of the people! He endangers the common good! He is a threat to his fellow-men, whom he robs, despoils and exploits!... He is cold, unfeeling, unloving!... He is immoral: he does not forgive! ... He has invented morality to make us feel guilty!... He is the cause of all the misery on earth! ... We are poor, because he's rich... we are weak, because he's strong... we suffer, because he's happy... '"

    It is because the second-hander's irrational hatred of the independent individualist is really a hatred of "reason and of all its manifestations and consequences," that it displays itself as resentment of all genuine "success, happiness, achievement or good fortune" or as enjoyment in "someone's failure, unhappiness or misfortune," which Rand describes as "pure, 'nonvenal' hatred of the good for being the good: the hater has nothing to lose or gain in such instances, no practical value at stake, no existential motive, no knowledge except the fact that a human being has succeeded or failed. The expressions of this response are brief, casual, as a rule involuntary. But if you have seen it, you have seen the naked face of evil."

    But the manifestation of that irrational hatred by the evil of the good is frequently unspoken. It is obvious in the look of disapproval or scorn at the mere mention of someone's genuine success or happiness, unmistakable in the sneer at anything one holds of value, or gleeful snickers over someone's failure, loss, or misfortune, especially an undeserved one. Because the second-hander's recognition of the independent individualist is instant and involuntary, their resentment, hostility, or raw hatred cannot be hidden by all their phony smiles and pleasantries.

    [Quotes above from: The Objectivist—July 1971, "The Age Of Envy" by Ayn Rand]

    The Good Recognition of the Good.

    In this age, most people are dominated by aspects of the second-hander, and true individualists are rare, and such as there are, while moderately independent, are not true independent individualists.

    In my article, "What Is an Individualist", under, "Anyone Can Be an Individualist," I quoted Rand's Nov. 30, 1945 letter to Mr. Curtis—"I'll say that any man who has an innate sense of independence and self-respect, and a spark of the creative mind, has that much of Roark in him."

    Though it becomes more rare every day, we occasionally meet (or discover) someone we seem to like automatically almost immediately. I am not referring to that kind of phony charm, called charisma, by which so many people are taken in. The thing we like is different, something most people do not see at all, and if they did, would not like. That thing is the trace of independence which is "that much of Roark" in them. It manifests itself in many ways and we are likely to name it differently depending on how we discover it—competent, self-assured, self-sufficient, honest, or dependable, alive, or refreshingly original, for example. Oddly, words usually used to express why people are liked will not fit. No one will say, "he's a really nice guy," or, "he's so charming, ... or understanding, ... or kind," or, "he's always so pleasant." Even though it is only a trace, and even though it is frequently inconsistent, to the extent an individual is truly independent and self-respecting, he will be accused of being selfish, self-centered, unfeeling, ruthless, unbending, narrow-minded, a lone wolf, difficult, or "honest to a fault," by most, and will be the very attributes we will find charming.

    For the true independent individualist, the flashes of independence and individualism one discovers in others, is usually disappointing, like a broken promise, and what we live to find is so rare, yet so unmistakable when we do, and is described in these words of Howard Roark:

    "I think the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern within other men. I've always demanded a certain quality in the people I liked. I've always recognized it at once—and it's the only quality I respect in men. I chose my friends by that. Now I know what it is. A self-sufficient ego. Nothing else matters." [Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, Part Four—11]

    The Good Recognition of the Highest Good, Which is Love.

    In my collection of notes on "Sex, Love, and Marriage," under, "Falling in Love," I quoted Rand:

    "One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person's character, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul—the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable consciousness." [The Romantic Manifesto, "Philosophy and Sense of Life"]

    While it is true, "the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern within other men," love is the exception. Love is a complete surrender to the only thing one may surrender to without giving up their values, because it is the fulfillment of them. It is choosing to value someone above all our other values, as our ultimate value and the object of all our other values, because that person is all we care for in life or care to live for. Love is the conscious choice to sell oneself totally to possess the prize of their life, it is the ultimate trade, all of one's self in exchange for one's ultimate joy and achievement, to love and be loved by the one that is the meaning of life for them.

    This kind of, "falling in love," does not happen to anyone who has never formed their own values and ideals because they will have no idea what kind of values they want in another. But for those who know what their values are, who know that their life is theirs to enjoy and that nothing short of reality itself and conforming to its requirements makes it possible to enjoy it, when they meet the one who embodies those values, the recognition will be almost instantaneous, often from what may seem the most trivial of words and actions. It is because what a person is, especially if they are the kind of person who so in love with the truth, faking reality would be impossible to them, is expressed in everything they do and the way they do it. It even affects the way they look, because how they dress and groom themselves, how they hold themselves when they stand and walk, their every expression and gesture will be an expression of what they are, a fully integrated individual. The recognition of one who seeks that kind of person is the experience called, "love at first sight."