I am currently reading “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. Before I begin, you should really watch this interview so you can get a picture of what Ayn Rand’s personality is like:
Ayn Rand Mike Wallace Interview 1959 part 1
Ayn Rand Mike Wallace Interview 1959 part 2
Did you watch it? Good.
The Fountainhead was published in 1943, fourteen years before Atlas Shrugged. So far, it is proving to have a slow momentum, as opposed to Atlas Shrugged, which I found interesting almost from the very beginning. But this isn’t a comparison between the two books. I will say though that the words, “I wish I was still reading Atlas Shrugged” came out of my mouth a few days ago. I miss the book.
Even though The Fountainhead is off to a slower start, I think I am getting into the meat and potatoes of the whole thing. There was a conversation I read a few nights ago that prompted me to read and then re-read. Here goes…
“You know, Alvah, it would be terrible if I had a job I really wanted.”
“Well, of all things! Well, of all fool things to say! What do you mean?”
“Just that. That it would be terrible to have a job I enjoyed and did not want to lose.”
“Because I would have to depend on you–you’re a wonderful person, Alvah, but not exactly inspiring and I don’t think it would be beautiful to cringe before a whip in your hand–oh, don’t protest, it would be such a polite little whip, and that’s what would make it uglier. I would have to depend on our boss Gail–he’s a great man, I’m sure, only I’d just as soon never set eyes on him.”
“Whatever gives you such a crazy attitude? When you know that Gail and I would do anything for you, and I personally…”
“It’s not only that, Alvah. It’s not you alone. If I found a job, a project, an idea or a person I wanted–I’d have to depend on the whole world. Everything has strings leading to everything else. We’re all so tied together. We’re all in a net, the net is waiting, and we’re pushed into it by one single desire. You want a thing and it’s precious to you. Do you know who is standing ready to tear it out of your hands? You can’t know, it may be so involved and so far away, but someone is ready, and you’re afraid of them all. And you cringe and you crawl and you beg and you accept them–just so they’ll let you keep it. And look at whom you come to accept.”
“If I’m correct in gathering that you’re criticizing mankind in general…”
“You know, it’s such a peculiar thing–our idea of mankind in general. We all have a sort of vague, glowing picture when we say that, something solemn, big and important. But actually all we know of it is the people we meet in our lifetime. Look at them. Do you know any you’d feel big and solemn about? There’s nothing but housewives haggling at pushcarts, drooling brats who write dirty words on the sidewalks, and drunken debutantes. Or their spiritual equivalent. As a matter of fact, one can feel some respect for people when they suffer. They have a certain dignity. But have you ever looked at them when they’re enjoying themselves? That’s when you see the truth. Look at those who spend the money they’ve slaved for–at amusement parks and side shows. Look at those who’re rich and have the whole world open to them. Observe what they pick out for enjoyment. Watch them in the smarter speak-easies. That’s your mankind in general. I don’t want to touch it.”
“But hell! That’s not the way to look at it. That’s not the whole picture. There’s some good in the worst of us. There’s always a redeeming feature.”
“So much the worse. Is it an inspiring sight to see a man commit a heroic gesture, and then learn that he goes to vaudeville shows for relaxation? Or see a man who’s painted a magnificent canvas–and learn that he spends his time sleeping with every slut he meets?”
“What do you want? Perfection?”
“–or nothing. So, you see, I take the nothing.”
Basically, the beginning of this particular conversation reminds me of the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson:
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
We all want things and the joy associated with them, but the question remains: How much are we going to give up for what we want?
I was talking about his particular conversation a few days ago. Without writing a really long post here, I will sum up what I said. I concluded that we all make sacrifices for things we think we want and we weigh those sacrifices against what our own tolerance for pain is.
Some people may want a powerful job with awesome responsibility, money and the feeling of importance. The pain associated with that job is that it may be thankless at times. You may not see your family. It may be high risk. You may be fired or experience more stress than the human body is built to handle for long periods of time.
Some people may want children and the experience and joy that comes along with them. The pain associated with that is the worry and fear of something happening.
Some people want to date the most beautiful person in town. The pain that comes along with beauty is that everyone wants it; the fact that you are dating it doesn’t seem to matter.
I usually have a pretty firm position on things. But the more I talk about something, the more I try to realize things from a different perspective. In this particular case, towards the end of our conversation, I realized that no matter what people do, they do things that they are comfortable with. If they are not comfortable with the feeling of loss, they will probably not choose to have a family or many pets. If they are aware that they can’t handle stress, they most likely won’t go for that high responsibility job. You get the idea. It’s a mental thing and it has to be considered on a case by case basis. This is why generalizing usually isn’t the best tactic when trying to gauge people.
So, in the conversation from the book above, I concluded that the first speaker (named Dominique) doesn’t have much tolerance for bowing to the power of someone else. She would choose to not mentally participate in whatever she is doing. She will do it, but no one will mentally own her. She obviously doesn’t have a tolerance for deceit or things that aren’t transparent. This is where Ayn Rand’s personality really comes through. That’s why I wanted you to watch the interview above.
I don’t know, I just found this conversation interesting. I liked it because it’s so familiar in so many people’s lives. Personally, I struggle with people who aren’t as curious as I am. I haven’t a clue as to why someone wouldn’t want to know something. But then again, I choose not to watch horror films because I get all stressed out. Some people love them. My point is that we avoid what’s generally uncomfortable and gravitate towards what makes us feel good.
I am going to post a video below of Howard Roark. He’s a main character and this is from the end of The Fountainhead.
The Fountainhead – Howard Roark Speech (Ayn Rand)
This gives you another insight into Ayn Rand’s mind.