Atlas Can’t Afford to Shrug!

Atlas Shrugged – a highly evocative metaphor, rich in meaning and symbolism. What happens if Atlas shrugs is a question Ayn Rand explored in her world renowned novel Atlas Shrugged. For those who have not read Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, the answer to Atlas shrugging his shoulders and walking off is complete collapse of the economic system.

That’s precisely why the thought occurred to me the other day that Atlas can’t afford to shrug. He just can’t! She just can’t!

But who is Atlas here exactly?

Greek mythology has it that Atlas was the primordial titan who held up the celestial spheres. Over time, the myth evolved to the current conception that Atlas was forced to hold the Earth on his shoulders by the Greek God, Zeus, as punishment for siding with the Titans in the war against the Olympians*.

That’s why you see so many sculptures of Atlas bearing the weight of the globe.

A statue of Atlas at the Home Goods in Milford, Massachusetts. Image 'Atlas' by Sean ( CC By-ND 2.0)
A statue of Atlas at the Home Goods in Milford, Massachusetts. Image ‘Atlas’ by Sean ( CC By-ND 2.0)

Notice the figure bent under the weight of the responsibility? Notice the grim expression?

Makes you wonder what would happen when the weight becomes just too much to bear, doesn’t it?

Well, while I say Atlas can’t afford to shrug, fact is the Atlas in our lives may do just that one day. Not because she or he wants to. But because she or he just can’t take the burden of the world anymore.

You must have heard the popular saying, “Don’t take the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

What does it mean? Where did the saying come from?

Surely the saying was popularised eons ago by some wise observers who saw a few people doing all the heavy-lifting while the rest just milled around, letting them and even mocking them for doing so.

It’s a familiar scene still – in homes, offices and even the government.

In offices, the Atlases are mocked because of the burden of responsibility they willingly lift.

At many a home, one person is allowed to ‘do’ for the rest, waiting on them, hand and foot.

In government, even when a nation is fortunate enough to have elected an Atlas to a position of high responsibility, she or he is often not allowed to function, making the burden of the world high nigh impossible to bear.

The result? Atlas can’t afford to shrug but there comes a time when he does, bringing worlds, big and small, down.

The science of physics teaches us the principle of load-bearing distribution in building strong structures.

The world of management understands the principle too, calling it teamwork where each player pulls her or his weight distributing the load.

Where load-bearing is well distributed, Atlas, as a team leader, has no problem in carrying the weight of responsibility on her or his shoulders. The same principle applies to the Atlas avatar in your home or government.

But what about the mother of all Atlas figures? Mother Earth?

Well, she is showing signs of shrugging these days, groaning under the weight of the damage done to her load-bearing distribution system.

The signs are there from melting glaciers to unseasonal weather to the increased frequency of hurricanes.

Atlas can’t afford to shrug. We cannot let her. But if we are to prevent Atlas from shrugging, we have to help her take the load.

Lift your share of the responsibility. At home, at your workplace and while living on this planet.

#AtlasShrugged #teamwork #management


Featured Image Credit: Weight on Your Shoulders by Gulan Bolisay ( CC By-SA 2.0). The image is of Lee Lawrie’s colossal bronze Atlas, Rockefeller Center, New York.

*Atlas (mythology) – Wikipedia.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *