Cryonics, May 1982
by Mike Darwin
“Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it. A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose, negate, and contradict the fact of his own existence, running blindly amuck on a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but pain.”
–from John Galt’s oath in Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
On November 21st, 1981 Ayn Rand addressed the National Committee for Monetary Reform conference in New Orleans and announced that she was writing a nine hour teleplay of “Atlas Shrugged.” Rand stated that it was her intention to produce the mini-series herself. Less than four months later Ayn Rand, the champion of the individual, was dead at the age of 77. She left much unfinished work.
Ayn Rand did not get frozen. It certainly wasn’t the case that she had not had the opportunity to hear about cryonics. In fact, we suspect that she not only knew about cryonics but that she had personally decided she didn’t want it. In the early 1970’s Fred and Linda Chamberlain, then running Manrise Corporation in Los Angeles, began sending Rand copies of “The Hourglass” (the newsletter of the Cryonics Society of California) and other cryonics literature. After several issues had been sent, “The Hourglass” was returned as refused. The Chamberlains followed this with a letter asking her to clarify her refusal and stating that they would remove her from the mailing list unless they heard from her. Rand never responded. It is interesting but not particularly productive to speculate about what Rand thought of cryonics. By almost all accounts Ayn Rand was not a person of great warmth or flexibility. Those who knew her say that empathy and openness were not strong elements in her character. All we can say is that every effort was made to reach her with our message and that she did not respond.
Shortly after word of her death was reported in the press, a number of individuals became involved in an attempt to reach those people surrounding Rand and persuade them to have her frozen. At the Alcor meeting the day following Rand’s death, one individual began a frantic series of phone calls to attempt to make suspension arrangements for Rand. Meanwhile, up north in Berkeley, Trans Time received a few calls from one of Rand’s “students” who was also attempting to persuade those in control of the situation in New York. None of this is surprising.
What is surprising is the character of the offers that were made to “save” Ayn Rand and more particularly the character of the people who were making them. In Los Angeles, the individual who was working to get Rand frozen stated that he could come up with a thousand dollars immediately to contribute toward her suspension. This is interesting since this individual has no suspension arrangements himself and has stated financial problems as the main obstacle to completing arrangements. The student of Rand in Colorado also had no suspension arrangements and no plans to make any; in fact, she wasn’t even a member of any cryonics group.
What can be said about such people and their efforts? The first thing that comes to mind is “inadequate.” The time to convince ANYONE of the rationality and desirability of cryonics is when they are alive, not when they are dead. It seems certain that these well-meaning individuals felt they owed a great debt to Rand and further felt that her death represented a great personal and intellectual loss. But, as has often been said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The point these people are missing is that of personal responsibility and respect for the beliefs of others. These people should understand that an intellectual or personal debt can only be repaid by diligent effort and not by ritual or by going through the motions of last-minute guilt. It takes work and risk and maybe even facing rebuffs to persuade someone like Rand to decide to be frozen. Most of all it takes courage, because the odds of success are infinitesimally low and the process of failure is likely to be painful and hard on the ego. Those who think that freezing Ayn Rand is going to be as simple as a few phone calls made 24 hours after she had died are not merely naive, they are stupid.
Perhaps a more salient observation about these would-be saviors would be the state of their own efforts. NONE of these people scrabbling to save Ayn Rand had made the first effort toward suspension arrangements for themselves. In other words, these people didn’t have the discipline, or sense of self-worth or the intelligence to save their own lives, much less someone else’s. It is ironic that these people apparently do not understand the basis of the philosophy of this writer whom they profess to love and admire. If there was one message that was central to Rand’s teaching, it was the sanctity of the individual. Rand taught that it was self-worth and the awareness of that worth in the form of ego that was the source of all human progress and good. As Rand would have been quick to say, the person whose life to worry about saving first is your own. These gaseous dreamers, who haven’t had the good sense to put a life net under themselves first, would do well to learn what Ayn Rand was really all about. As Rand herself once said, “You can’t have a pinch hitter live your life for you.” Sound advice. We are sorry to have lost Ayn Rand. She was a brilliant woman to whom we will forever owe a tremendous debt of gratitude. but we have ourselves to worry about, and we know she would understand if we insist on putting that worry first.
“I swear — by my life and my love of it — that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
also from John Galt’s oath in Atlas Shrugged.