Atlas Hugged through the lens of a former Ayn Rand devotee…

Marilyn Hamilton is a polymath and founder of Integral City, which describes the ideal city as “A whole living system. It is the Human Hive. As the beehive is for honeybees, the Integral City is the collective habitat for the human species.”

Given Marilyn’s holistic vision, I’m not surprised that she resonated to AH. A bit more surprising is that Marilyn was a devotee of Ayn Rand earlier in her life and read Atlas Shrugged repeatedly.  Intrigued, I asked Marilyn to expound upon her own journey and comparison of the two books. Here is what she wrote:

Marilyn’s Trap, Trek and Transcendence from Atlas Shrugged to Atlas Hugged


My father brought Atlas Shrugged home from work travel in Canada – where he served as Director of National Historic Sites in the mid 60’s. (He had also brought home The Fountainhead – which I probably read at 15.) My father came from strong Scottish/English/Saskatchewan socialist roots related to the creation of what became Canada’s NDP (best exemplified at that time under Tommy Douglas). With that kind of background, he was skeptical of Rand’s perspective and more than a little horrified that I took up the Objectivist banner and ran with it – all the way to U of Toronto where I did my undergrad (in English literature/theatre).

I was probably saved from becoming cultified by Objectivism (despite being introduced to the whole panoply of followers from Branden to Greenspan +++) because my father was such a good debater who never missed an opportunity to challenge me about my assumptions about the supremacy of the individual. The other saving grace was living in Toronto during the draft dodger years of the war in Vietnam – meant that I encountered in my Canadian life conditions a steady stream of counterculture who demonized Rand and all she stood for. My meaning making system enjoyed the tensions of being a Randian-Objectivist amidst a cohort of green/socialist students/culture-mavens, revelling in the playgrounds of Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury – probably because I have a strong streak of contrarianism in my typology. I was able to recognize the opposing views and hold what I considered the best of both systems simultaneously. I was also wise – or cowardly?  enough to go underground with the Rand worldview of individualism because I could detect the social antibodies it created, and I did not want to be exorcised from my UofT cohort.

Between age 16 and 26 I probably re-read AH at least 6 times. In addition, I subscribed to the Objectivist Newsletter and caught occasional wind of the disconnects between Rand and her husband and Branden (and Branden’s wife – was it Barbara??) and then their final break-up. I viewed Greenspan’s ascendancy into the Fed with considerable disbelief that Objectivism could find its way into the heart of the Treasury/Financial System.

I viewed Rand’s individualism from the perspective of the expression of healthy personal development – with a heavy dose of Romanticism (what I would later consider to be the dignities of Spiral Dynamics’ Red/blue/Orange) against a sea of Canada’s federalized social support systems (SD Blue/Green). This suited the individual (albeit romantic) contrarian who lived in the centre of my psyche. But I also watched with something akin to detached horror as I saw the Objectivist in-world disintegrate into incoherence through Rand’s (to me) incomprehensible personal antics.

Nevertheless, the lenses of romance imbibed from Rand’s fiction, influenced my choice of: further studies (I became a certified/chartered accountant so I could understand business); husbands; and my attraction to business/capitalist organizations/operations.


As an antidote to my stage of strong egocentrism my father’s profession exposed me to most every museum and culture in Canada. This combined with my quite good track record in most business operational functions (including systems and computer services, HR, OD, multiple sectors) on local, regional and international scales, auto-didactic learning, global travel and the serendipity of engaging with Scott Peck’s Road Less Travelled (and his whole endeavour of Foundation for Community Encouragement). The value and power of community made me curious – especially as I lived for 30 years (from 1985 to 2017) in a small city in BC, Canada – where my natural business acumen served strong faith/philanthropic communities well in positional and volunteer leadership. That environment and the direct experience of creating a Lifelong Learning Agency (before that became an established meme) lead me back to school as a mature student, producing a doctorate at age 50, in Learning & Leadership in Self-Organizing Online Community Systems (1999).


Through that process I learned complexity science (via Meg Wheatley) and Integral Theory and met Ken Wilber. And he introduced me to Spiral Dynamics and Don Beck. Both Integral and Spiral Dynamics gave me the frameworks to recalibrate my experience with Rand and Objectivism.

My curiosity lead me from organization management to organic complexity. From inexplicable human behaviors to fractal patterns. From fragmented particles to integrated meta-systems. From atheistic beliefs to spiritual energies. From linearity to non-local connectiveness. From flatland to developmental evolution. The path and scale of human systems development unfolded for me from individual to team to organization to sector to community to city.

I could see them all as holonic/social holonic emergences that I eventually reframed (from Elisabet Sahtouris and James Lovelock) as evolutionary creations from the living Earth/Gaia herself.

My thinking about cities has reframed them as Gaia’s Reflective Organs – with Evolutionary Intelligences (my first book); with capacities for Placecaring and Placemaking (my second book); able to reframe complex challenges as Gaia’s Human Hives (my third book).

Fast forward to late December 2020 – After a year of bio-reality-challenging pandemic, I have just read DS Wilson’s Atlas Hugged.  Having followed Ayn Rand quite closely (as noted above) I was curious and more than a little skeptical about this daring satire. However, I must declare that I am quite captivated by AH. I really appreciate David’s intentions, plot line, settings, characters, and reframing of a belief system that impacted a good 50% of my life!! But I also appreciate his imagination, sense of humour, storytelling and the surprising empathy he bestows on his characters. I am grateful for the Epilogue about the science behind AH and find it aligns very much with the science I have referenced as I have been exploring the organismic nature of Gaia, cities, collectives and individual humans. I came to enjoy the characters in AH – so who knows, I will probably re-read it a few times just for the pleasure of their company ????

I think our journey to catalyze change is just beginning. I think our 2020 year of the pandemic is just the beginning of shifting to a new worldview that interconnects us all – like the 4 symbols of AH. It is inspiring to read how Atlas Hugged could influence our work as evolutionary catalysts through the “Master of Regenerative Action” – which is our calling for 2021. May it create circles of cooperation in service to all life on Earth.

Meshful blessings on this Eve of 2021

Marilyn Hamilton