Sunday, July 18, 2010

Spewing From My "Fountainhead"

I began reading Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead for three reasons:

  1. To make myself appear more sophisticated

  2. Because my boyfriend recommended it

  3. Because I wanted to challenge myself with this classic piece of literature

All noble causes, right? Well, the point is that I read it and that I'm very glad I did.

Ms. Rand's unconventional novel outlining her philosophy of Objectivism really made me contemplate why people are the way they are, what motivates them, what it's like not to let others define you, and what love truly is.

One passage in particular that sparked my interest is found in the eighth chapter of Part Two, which is entitled Ellsworth M. Toohey. In this passage Toohey looks out at the skyline and says,

"Look at it. A sublime achievement, isn't it? A heroic achievement. Think of the thousands who worked to create this and of the millions who profit by it. And it is said that but for the spirit of a dozen men-less, perhaps-none of this would have been possible. And that might be true. If so, there are-again-two possible attitudes to take. We can say that these twelve were great benefactors, that we are all fed by the overflow of the magnificent wealth of their spirit, and that we are glad to accept it in gratitude and brotherhood. Or, we can say that by the splendor of their achievement which we can neither equal nor keep, these twelve have shown us what we are, that we do not want the free gifts of their grandeur, that a cave by an oozing swamp and a fire of sticks rubbed together are preferable to skyscrapers and neon lights-if the cave and the sticks are the limit of your own creative capacities. Of the two attitudes, Dominique, which would you call the truly humanitarian one? Because, you see, I'm a humanitarian."

I took this question to heart and reached a conclusive personal answer. Why would I want to live in a world where the great are restricted and reduced to mediocrity to save the inept from feeling inferior? Without hope in the future, in the strength of humanity, without a glimpse at beauty and a chance to dream of something better, there is no sense in continuing life in such a mundane and futile society. To curl up in a cave with a stick fire simply because not everyone will invent the computer or paint the Mona Lisa or write a Shakespearean sonnet is to rob humanity of all beauty and hope. The truly humanitarian attitude is the one which allows humanity to be inspired, to take chances, and to live beyond the perceived possibilities.

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