Here Comes That Rainbow Again (Something Else for your Friday!)

Over at the RMFW (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) Yahoo discussion site, there’s been a day-long back and forth about human altruism or, more precisely the lack of the same. Indeed, the specter of Ayn Rand (the penultimate example in American literature of the no-holds-barred egoist, inward-directed, espouser of individual self-interest), arose as, for some, an iconic figure whose philosophy defines the “real” human spirit.

“Au contraire,” says I. Yes, the simplistic words from Kris Kristofferson, “Here Comes That Rainbow Again,” performed by Kristofferson himself, pretty much sums up my response.

The scene was a small roadside cafe,
The waitress was sweeping the floor.
Two truck drivers drinking their coffee.
And two Okie kids by the door.
“How much are them candies?” they asked her.
“How much have you got?” she replied.
“We’ve only a penny between us.”
“Them’s two for a penny,” she lied.

And the daylight grew heavy with thunder,
With the smell of the rain on the wind.
Ain’t it just like a human.
Here comes that rainbow again.

One truck driver called to the waitress,
After the kids went outside.
“Them candies ain’t two for a penny.”
“So what’s it to you?” she replied.
In silence they finished their coffee,
And got up and nodded goodbye.
She called: “Hey, you left too much money!”
“So what’s it to you?” they replied.

And the daylight was heavy with thunder,
With the smell of the rain on the wind.
Ain’t it just like a human.
Here comes that rainbow again.

(P.S. Yeah, I know, Stephen–Broken Hat Trick–this is one of those “soda pop” moments. But, hey, we all need a little soda pop every now and then.)

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4 Responses to Here Comes That Rainbow Again (Something Else for your Friday!)

  1. ohwilleke says:

    Robert A. Heinlein’s character Jubal Harshaw in “Stranger in a Strange Land”, on altruism:

    “Of all the nonsense that twists the world, the concept of ‘altruism’ is the worst. People do what they want to, every time. If it pains them, to make a choice- if the ‘choice’ looks like a ‘sacrifice’ — you can be sure that it is no nobler than the discomfort caused by greediness… the necessity of having to decide between two things you want when you can’t have both. The ordinary bloke suffers every time he chooses between spending a buck on beer or tucking it away for his kids, between getting up to go to work and losing his job. But he always chooses that which hurts least or pleasures most. The scoundrel and the saint make the same choices….”

    His character Lazarus Long in “Time Enough For Love” said similarly:

    “Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil.”

    but also,

    “If tempted by something that feels ‘altruistic,’ examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it. ”

    Heinlein is often compared to Rand, but Heinlein is closer to the mark. Altruism arises because people want more than money in life.

  2. georgeindenver says:

    Thanks, Andrew. Got to say, though, that I–having read Rand in high school–was blessed with the wisdom? ability? life-lessons-learned? to turn away from her conclusions. Sure, we’re mostly “in it” for ourselves. But, each of us, surely, on occasion commits those proverbial “acts of kindness,” that transcend the characterization of altruism as “…self-deception.” I thought the simple story captured by “Here Comes That Rainbow Again,” provided some little evidence of that. At least, for me, the simple story hit a practiced nerve…

  3. georgeindenver says:

    My goodness, my gracious me! Even Auntie over at Dear Denver ( takes issue with “altruism.” Didn’t realize such passions would emerge from an entry which, in both song and words, describes a little act of kindness. I guess raising the ante in including a reference to Ayn Rand was my downfall. Oh my… Lesson learned: Don’t mess with Ayn.

  4. Kevin McGee says:

    It’s one of the subtleties of the song that it can contain both views of altruism. There are two acts of generosity here. Neither of them is unobserved. The waitress is kind to the kids, and (whether she considered it or not) ends up with a bigger tip. The truck drivers see each other’s generosity, and presumably reward it with approval.

    If it comes to that, they will probably be back in the same cafe – it’s a “roadside” place. Truck-drivers tend to find a place they like and stick with it. They’ll be back, she’ll remember them, and they may get an extra egg with their breakfast.

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