Posted by: Hours Per Mile | May 14, 2010

Chapter 2 — Puerto Natales, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina

What’s this, a notion so real,


Felt in the stomach

Swallowed and tasted and now—

manifesting in my heart.

A free heart!

This is hardly the ultimate test, as I can think of much more arduously boring scenarios, but my capacity to entertain myself is at the plate…facing a 28 hour fast ball, or rather a 28 hour slow bus ride from Puerto Natales to Bariloche, Argentina. Oddly, I am excited for it, even though that is a lot of country missed, whizzed past, slept through.

The ordeal begins with a filthy bus full of locals at 4am. Funny I should call it filthy. I’m used to the nice, comfortable tourist bus—one which I despise. I have wanted one like this and now I’m afraid to put my pillow against anything for fear of germs. I’m going to love these screaming babies because they are life here. Life here is not those rotten tourist buses so spotlessly clean. I don’t want those. This is the penance march I’ve been wanting all for the sake of experience. Experience, my buzz word these days. I want the parents with four year old children sitting on their laps because they can’t afford to buy an extra seat. Parents! Four year olds get real heavy after a while. Will I really be that selfless? Is it deep within every human to give up everything for such a miniature human being with such capabilities of failure and corruption, success and pride? The bus rattles, bumps, is hot. My mind wanders in every direction…

Now it’s 10:30 pm and we’re still on the bus, will be till 12:30 pm tomorrow…It is not often in my life that I wake up from a fitful nap, groggy and cramped from trying to get comfortable in an unaccommodating bus seat, and the answer to “are we there yet?” is a depressing 15 more hours. Books keep me sane. Books, my journal, and my iPod.

I have been reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and it’s dangerous. Her words infiltrate my mind and the longer I dwell on them the more truth they seem to have. That is the hazard of exposing myself to alternate forms of thought. How easily led astray I may be…bouncing along in this bus, nothing else to do but toy with appealing ideas, my whole belief system facing an assault upon its foundations. It is dangerous and scary, but wholly necessary for a strong set of beliefs. For, now I have to peel back the layers of what I’ve been taught over the years, dig through all the sediments of Christian rhetoric and decide what I believe, my life’s dedication, the sound of the beating of my drum.

Rand’s tune is all about the heroic man, hammering into her readers that a true man is one who operates solely from within himself, reacting to no outside influences, living for no reason other than himself. I drop the reins of my mind and let it run away with me. Imagine all the untapped urges inside me that I never let surface for fear of my sinful nature…but Rand will say embrace them, for they are like bubbles and I need to catch each urge and nurture it, respond to it, because it is part of me and it will pop and expire if I don’t DO something with it. Expunge what is inside me and, whether respectable or not, I will be fulfilling my human nature.

And there is the problem. I do not believe in the sanctity of human nature. I believe that when left alone we are bad, bad creatures living for only one purpose—ourselves, and how obvious that is! Even in our developed and civilized world, where decisions usually do not hinge upon life and death, we still grab the close parking spot from under the nose of an old lady who might have been there first. And why do we do it? Pleasure, even if it means a shorter walk into the grocery store. Pleasing the desires of our human nature is the sound of Rand’s words, those soothing words of appeal to a nature so greedy for the flesh’s satisfaction. As someone who believes more in the purity of purpose within the Bible than in the fleeting whims of my body, I cry out to my Lord with the words of David, “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever (Psalm 86). I cry for this because I believe it, despite my divided heart, my errant walks around truth, but I want it!

From the very beginning, our consciences have drawn the distinction between right and wrong. An examination of history, however, reveals how seldom humans actually follow their consciences, opting for the more advantageous instincts. Instinct, however, as Rand demands we follow, plies against our conscience, the tool with which God nudges us in the right direction. Our instincts are animal, sinful, practicing survival of the fittest. Cane followed his instinct, Abel followed his conscience. But then I begin thinking of a young boy born into extreme impoverishment, reduced to following only instinct for his basic survival, his conscience so diminished out of sheer necessity. Where is he left on the Richter scale of “bad”? Because for some, instinct is the only thing that keeps them alive, while for others, it is the fuel for their debaucheries and pleasure-filled worlds.

I must acknowledge that instincts are not entirely bad. Without instincts would we ever reproduce? The only problem is they have become manipulated by Satan, turning something such as sex, which God intended to be so pure and necessary, into an industry of mass seduction and depravity. A heroic man is not one who rapes a woman because he wants to, as claimed by Rand, but rather the one who is able to rope in his exploited instincts and, rather, use them for a purpose which glorifies his Creator.

I have been taught from the beginning and still believe that we are not alone in this, for God gave us his Son, Jesus, to save us from the wreckage wrought by instinct. And Jesus tells us in the Bible, which is God himself bound and printed on magically thin pages, that his Father gives us a gift, his Holy Spirit, who will teach us all things—that is, give us the answer to “What should I do???”

I am aware of all the different beliefs in this world, that what I have just written may sound like mumbo jumbo to one person who has never heard the name Jesus before, and to another person it may sound like I never really dug through the layers of Sunday School teaching that have built up around me. However, to another person, reading the difference between following instinct and conscience may lead them to find that they are not alone.

All this to say, everyone in this world thinks they are right. I think I am right, even with all my confusion. Theories, objectives, mantras—each has their own. Ayn Rand thinks she is right. She could be right…but then I would be wrong.

My life would be wrong, based upon the notion that daily I am supposed to nail myself to a cross, sacrificing all my human desires…but that’s such a grand phrase, sweeping across the entire spectrum of human wants and needs and saying they’re all wrong. What Rand misses is the truth that God is supposed to live within us, and if He does, well, then the desires that spring forth out of our purest human form should go through the filter of our Creator, remaining untainted by the norms and expectations of the world around us. I can say all this but living it, acting on what I believe is whether I truly believe I’m right or not. What a fraud to spend my life on Earth saying I believe one thing yet jiving to a different beat.

Our ETA: 5 hours more! That’s a cinch.

“They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”

Jude 12:18-19

Mate with the bus driver


  1. Wonderful, Elise.
    Remember that Ayn Rand is from Russia.
    However, her ATLAS SHRUGGED is very scary to read today when we see what’s happened with America.
    Hard to dismiss the Revelations stories at this time, more so than ever in my lifetime.

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