Honoring Yourself

When Thomas Jefferson dispatched Lewis and Clark to find an easy Northwest Passage through the Louisiana Territory to the Pacific Ocean, they led one of the great explorations in history. By boat and canoe, the expedition explored the Missouri River all the way to its origins, undaunted by savage tribes or grizzly bears. Then they looked for a way west.

Instead of an easy passage to the Columbia River, they found almost impassable mountains. Instead of an easy float down the Columbia, they found roaring rapids. Instead of the expected supply ships in the mouth of the Columbia, they found primitive tribes, Pacific fog, and ceaseless rain.

None of it slowed them down. Back up the Columbia they went, back over the Rockies, back down the Missouri, back to a president who had been advised to give them up for dead. How many survived? They lost one man—to appendicitis.

It was said of each man on the expedition that he had done honor not only to his country, but also to himself.

Honoring yourself meant bringing out the hero hidden in every human. It meant showing the courage not just to die well, but to live with purpose. It meant that you had what it takes to explore new frontiers.

There are people who say that honoring yourself no longer applies, because there are no new frontiers to explore. They are wrong.

Just when it seemed all frontiers had been conquered, Ayn Rand opened up the most exciting frontier yet: the frontier of the mind. One who wants to honor himself by exploring the unknown has only to open the Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Vast fields for exploration are revealed on every page.

The exploration will have its dangers. Established power structures will be threatened. Just as Lewis and Clark had to deal with the treacherous Lakota Indians, the mind explorer will have to deal with malicious academics. Like Lewis and Clark, he will need not only plenty of ammunition but also immense courage and some guile.

Most of all, the mind explorer will need the inner strength to keep going even when the terrain is nothing like what was expected, even when others pronounce the exploration unnecessary, even in the face of ridicule and disinterest. He will not find a Northwest Passage to automatic mental expertise, but he will find his mind growing stronger and stronger with each mountain conquered.

At some point, the mind explorer will realize that whether or not others honor him, he has honored the traditions of his country, and the truth of his philosophy. He will also see that he has honored himself.

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