OBJECTIVISTS & OBJECTIVISM


Ayn Rand and the Objectivist movement
THE JEFFERSON SCHOOL -- 1987: During my time in Dallas, no matter what I was doing, I would still continue to read Ayn Rand books and had begun reading Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.  This was the most philosophical book I had read, and I had to read it slowly, and re-read each chapter. Nevertheless, I felt at this point that I had reached the ability to think conceptually, something I had never learned in high school.  And this gave me a sense of accomplishment.  Unfortunately though, there were very few people I could share this sense of accomplishment with, and this always made me think of Briona.

I had met other women, some very beautiful as Dallas had so many, but the encounters never went far beyond the sexual attraction or occasional interaction.  I had longed to be in a romantic relationship, but many of the women I had met seemed uninterested in current affairs, politics or even simple thought provoking conversations, and none had ever heard of Ayn Rand. And this prevented me from sharing a spiritual connection with them, like the connection I once had with Briona.  And though I had sought my freedom from her, I had come to realize that she was one of the few people who I could connect with, and this made me realize also how much I actually missed her.  Frequently, I would drive by Prescott Avenue in my black T-Bird, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but never did.


It wouldn’t be until the next Thomas Jefferson School conference, in 1987, that I would see Briona again.  This was a bi-annual conference that was held at the University of San Diego (UCSD) in La Jolla, California.  The conference was about Ayn Rand’s philosophy and was attended by the Who’s Who of Objectivism.  The conference was organized by George Reisman and his wife, Edith Packer. George Reisman was an economics professor at UC Pepperdine and a prominent Objectivist.

At the previous Jefferson School, in 1985, Briona and I had arrived as a couple and paid for the whole package; this included the lectures, on-campus housing and cafeteria meals.  I remember the cafeteria well because one day, as I was waiting in line, I saw Leonard Peikoff in front of me having a panic attack about the chicken.  I heard him say: “Chicken again!  We just had it for lunch yesterday.  Oh no, not again.  Why chicken again?”  It reminded me of a Woodie Allen, the way he became so dramatic about something so insignificant.  One woman, who was seeking to become the hero, hurried up to the counter and asked if anything else besides chicken could be served.  The black man behind it didn’t seem to understand what the fuss was all about.


 Dr. Leonard Peikoff, heir to Ayn Rand's estate and Objectivist movement.

When I arrived at the conference this time, I had only purchased the lectures since I couldn’t afford the housing.  I had arrived with one suitcase, a round-trip plane ticket, several hundred dollars, and no idea where I would be spending the night.  But that made it all the more adventurous.  I had also purchased a ticket for the opening banquet, which was at a nice restaurant overlooking the ocean.  And I had put on some fashionable clothes in case I would encounter Briona.

When I entered the banquet room, I immediately saw Jeffrey Lott.  We were both delighted to see each other since we hadn’t seen each other in a very long time.  There were other young people that I recognized, as well.  And I was beginning to feel relaxed and at home.  But this one question kept lingering in my mind: Where would I be spending the night?  I told Jeffrey about my problem, and he said he would help me find a solution.  But in the meantime, I had a plan of my own.

Right before the banquet dinner was about to commence, I approached the table of the MC, Dr. Reisman, and asked him if there were any vacant rooms available.  It had been my thinking that as a free enterprise economist, Dr. Reisman would appreciate seeing a young man like me wheeling and dealing to attend his conference.  It had been my thinking also that Dr. Reisman would rather have rented me a room at a discounted price than allow it to remain vacant.  But my thinking had been all wrong.  Dr. Reisman looked at me with some suspicion and said slowly: “There are units available.”  He then paused, and said in a mysteriously: “I will discuss this with you after dinner.”  But never did.

But just as I was about to feel discouraged, Jeffrey Lott enthusiastically waived me over to his table and introduced me to Joey.  Lucky for me, Joey had arrived at the Jefferson School in a recreational vehicle (RV) and had a bed to spare.  The RV actually was an old red pick-up truck with a white shell on top of it.  Still there was plenty of room for two, and I remembered Joey as one of the people who had visited Jeffrey for the Objectivist courses. 

Another person I recognized was Carl.  Carl had been a regular visitor at Jeffrey’s apartment, as well.  And he and Jeffrey had been economic students at San Francisco State University (SSU) and both had been active in the SSU Objectivist Club.  When Jeffrey first petitioned SSU to establish this club, the college president denied his petition but Jeffrey Lott fought back and won.  Thereafter he became a notorious figure on campus with both students and faculty. 

Jeffrey’s table was comprised of the young crowd.  Being that Jeffrey was always cheerful and humorous, he had become the de facto leader of this group.  Before becoming an Objectivist, Jeffrey was a lead singer in a rock band and had developed a large and enthusiastic following.  And now, amongst so many nerdy Objectivist types, he was the “cool” person to be around. 

Then Briona entered, and her beauty silenced the room, as she instantaneously became the star of the room.  She waved at Jeffrey and seemed surprised to see me, though did not greet me.

After dinner, there was a band and several people danced.  I asked Dr. Reisman’s wife if she wanted to dance, and she did with great delight and enthusiasm.  I think she really liked to dance.  Some Objectivists seemed to find this amusing, others seemed perplexed, and Dr. Reisman seemed thoroughly irritated.

After the banquet, Joey drove the RV to the UCSD campus where he would park it for the overnight stay.  After taking showers in Jeffrey’s apartment, we returned to the RV.  During most of the night, Joey and I conversed as if we were attending a slumber party.  I considered Joey a new friend and was grateful he had provided me with a place to sleep.  Right before falling asleep, I confined in Joey my desires for Briona, and soon thereafter I fell asleep and was dreaming of her.

The next evening Jeffrey Lott had a party in his apartment and most of the young ones attended.  And some distinguished Objectivists also visited, one being Michael Berliner, another David Kelly, and there were others, and behind them, somewhere, was Briona.  I was glad to see her because I felt the time had come for us to reunite, and La Jolla was the perfect place to do it.  The climate outside was perfect, not too hot, not too cold, and it was still light -- perfect for romance.

As I was leaning against the balcony doorway, drinking a beer, Briona made her way towards me and sat down on a nearby sofa, acknowledging me with a smile.  As Briona and Jeffrey were conversing, I heard her mention something to him about the appearance of the saxophone player David Sanborn on a late night television show.  She then suddenly turned to me and asked if I liked listening to David Sanborn’s music.  I was caught off guard, and didn’t know how to respond.  I did manage to say something but don’t remember what.  What I do remember, however, is that Jeffrey found my response humorous and was laughing.  But Briona, in contrast, was looking away, seemingly offended.  In the background was Joey, quietly observing how I had blown my opportunity to reunite with Briona.  

The next day, I noticed that Briona and Joey were sitting next to each other during the conference and across from each other during lunch.  And Joey also hadn’t spent the night in his camper.  Though I didn’t ask him where he was sleeping, I became concerned it was with Briona.  Moreover, Joey’s demeanor towards me had changed: he seemed more distant and serious, as if we suddenly had a business relationship.  My suspicions were confirmed later that evening when I walked into a restaurant in downtown La Jolla and saw the two of them holding hands.  When Joey saw me, he immediately withdrew, as if I had caught him with his hand in the cookie jar, which in a way I had.  For the remainder of the conference, I was sleeping alone in Joey’s RV, and would fall asleep listening to Bryan Ferry’s version of John Lennon’s "Jealous Guy."



On the final day of the conference, I said farewell to Jeffrey and all the young ones.  Moments later, as I was awaiting the shuttle to take me to the airport, I noticed Joey driving by in his RV with Briona sitting next to him.  They both avoided making eye-contact with me, and I remember thinking: I will never be with her again.  It’s over!  Joey is leaving with my trophy.

And there Briona went, a beautiful woman, a beautiful mind.  And though she had put on a few pounds, I still considered her the bird that flew away.  And though I had gained much knowledge at the 1987 Jefferson School conference, I would still return to Dallas empty-handed and empty-hearthed -- but at least not empty-headed.

I then saw Dr. Reisman drive by with his wife sitting beside him.  Like the captain of the ship, he would be the last one to leave the UCSD campus after accommodating the departures of all his attendees.  He was driving a brand new two-tone Cadillac sedan, and I remember thinking: This is well deserved.  The Reismans brought us all together at this beautiful location.  And, despite losing the girl, I had some of the best times of my life, thanks to Jeffrey Lott and the young ones.


Dr. George Reisman, The Jefferson School, Objecivism

SUBSEQUENTLY: The bi-annual Jefferson School conference was discontinued after Leonard Peikoff expelled the Reismans in 1993 from the Objectivist movement.  Though the expulsion was argued on moral grounds, I believe it was all about money.  Some of the lecturers close to Peikoff were jealous of the financial success of the Jefferson School and wanted a bigger slice of the pie.  Peikoff initially didn’t care, but eventually allowed his lackeys to drag him into the fight.  In the end, the entire movement wound-up with pie on its face.

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