The Shattering of Institutions

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Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged said

The great oak tree had stood on a hill over the Hudson, in a lonely spot of the Taggart estate.  Eddie Willers, aged seven, liked to come and look at that tree.  It had stood there for hundreds of years, and he thought it would always stand there.  Its roots clutched the hill like a fist with fingers sunk into the soil, and he thought that if a giant were to seize it by the top, he would not be able to uproot it, but would swing the hill and the whole of the earth with it, like a ball at the end of a string.  He felt safe in the oak tree’s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength.

One night, lightning struck the oak tree.  Eddie saw it the next morning. It lay broken in half, and he looked into its trunk as into the mouth of a black tunnel.  The trunk was only an empty shell; its heart had rotted away long ago; there was nothing inside – just a thing gray dust that was being dispersed by the whim of the faintest wind. The living power had gone, and the shape it left had not be able to stand without it.

It was an immense betrayal – the more terrible because he could not grasp what it was that had been betrayed.  It was not himself, he knew, nor his trust; it was something else.  He stood there for a while, making no sound, then he walked back to the house.  He never spoke about it to anyone, then or since.
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