Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Fountainhead

In ‘The Fountainhead’ Ayn Rand depicts mans character to be the product of his premises, through various characters, which are distinct classes of humanity:–

Howard Roark a college drop out from, the Architectural School of the Stanton Institute of Technology, self made architect, self sufficient, self confident, self centered ‘monster- because he is utterly innocent about it. His integrity is as unyielding as granite. He is in conflict with the world in every possible way-and at complete peace with himself and is himself at every cost. He knows it, and therefore is never hurt, nor suffers, and has no painful surprises. He has accepted what he is to accept from the world and is concerned with only what he does, which cannot be influenced by anything and anyone on the outside. He neither joins the society nor fights them, but lives on his own but do not mind destroying what he believes to be a destruction of creativity. A hymn glorifying a man’s ‘I’. Who dynamited and destroyed, Cortlandt, as it was he who designed it, and others tried to change it. He did not recognize anyones right to one minute of his life, energy or achievement. After a desperate battle waged he is fortunate enough in finding victory, after facing all odds, hardships and obstacles and of the fanatic denunciation unleashed by an enraged society against a great creator. A man who is as he should be as per Ayn Rand. ‘Are you happy Mr. Superman?’

Parallel to him is his senior in the college and the topper, Peter Keating, a second hander, in whose house Roark lived during the three years of his architectural education. He is a ruthless, unprincipled egotist, who did anything for his ‘brilliant career’, removed Tim Davis, Claude Stengel and Lucius Heyer, from his way, send for the competation drawing made by Howard Roark as his. He was a luckier, selfless man, who having no self also did not have any ethics. His aim in life was Greatness-in other people’s eyes fame, admiration, envy. His philosophy was to always be what people want you to be, then you can get them where you want them. Others were his motive power and his prime concern. Concerned, not truly, but only as mirrors for his own vanity. He borrowed from others in order to make an impression on others. That’s actual selflessness. It’s his ego he’s betrayed and given up. But everybody calls him selfish.

Ellsworth Toohey, contrast to Roark, who did not believe in individualism, but that all are equal and interchangeable, glorified all forms of collectivism, who said to Peter, that kindness was the first commandment. We need to learn to love everything, the humblest, the least, the meanest, and then the meanest in you will be loved. According to him there are two things we must get rid of early in life, a feeling of personal superiority and an exaggerated reverence for the sexual act. He seldom let a boy pursue the career he had choosen. He told them, that it would be wiser to choose a profession about which we can be calm, sane and matter-of fact. And if you hate it, it makes for down-to-earthness. He belived in principles and that there are two procedures in life, you can pull out each single weed as it comes up or prepare the soil in such a manner-by spreading such a chemical- that it will be impossible for weeds to grow. Guess he was busy doing the second, with a mask of the social worker. Who destroyed architecture, literature, theater, press. He spend time creating all form of silly organizations. He made friends who clung to him. He once said to kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy, but which can be used as a weapon of destruction, by turning it into a sneer. He was Catherines uncle. When there was an end to the Banner, many newspapers bid for his service. He selected the Courier. He went into ‘intellectualism’ in a big way. A subconscious revenge for his obvious physical inferiority, a means to power his body could never give him. Also he had a cunning perception that only mental control over others is true control. Concerned about others, with an overwhelming desire to dominate them.

Gail Wynand, the greatest publisher, born without a silver spoon in his mouth. A self made man, who had acquired all the wealth, and power in the world. But he ruled only as long as he said what the mob wanted him to say, and all were fair weathering when he said what he wanted. Of whom Henry Cameron, who loved his work for which he fought and lost, who was the only person with whom Howard Roark wanted to work, and did work, had warned when on his death bed. With whom Austen Heller, who had given Roark, his first break in creativity had asked Roark to keep a boundary, to which Roark had said: but nobody has ever given the proper statement of where they must be drawn. With his banner was Alvah Scarret, who had never hated anything and so was incapable of love. When Toohey was to be taken back to Banner, he put an end to it. Mike the electrician, and Steven Mallory, who was the sculptor of the controversial statue of Dominique for the temple, were the few well wishers of Roark. But Gail Wynand ended up giving Roark the biggest and greatest break, in his career, though had lost even his wife for Roark.

Dominique Francon, the exquisitely beautiful women who loved Roark passionately, but married first Peter Keating, and then Gail Wynand, and in the end return to Roark. Hers was the character, I could not digest, may be it is typical of the western culture, and unacceptable to traditional orients! To her everything was a string leading to every other.

Catherine Halsey, whom Peter had jilted for Dominique. Who then takes up work, and believes herself to be temperamentally unsuited to domesticity which is too selfish and too narrow. Who learns to believe in looking at things objectively, and being rational.

Mrs. Keating, full of dreams for her son. A true, normal mother – for whom there is only one perfect child. ‘Motherhood in a changing world’. Can they ever broaden their own emotional view and raise their selfish love for their children, to a higher plane?

About material and non material things:

There are various perceptions given of two great professions Architecture and Journalism.

Money: There is nothing evil in a desire to make money. But money is only a means to some end. If a man wants it for a personal purpose-to invest in his industry, to create, to study, to travel, to enjoy luxury- he’s completely moral. But the men who place money first go beyond that. Personal luxury is a limited endeavor. What they want is ostentation: to show, to stun, to entertain, and to impress others. They’re second-handers.

Man: A man thinks and works alone. The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. A man cannot rob, exploit or rule-alone. Robbery, exploitation and ruling presuppose victims. They imply dependence. They are the province of the second hander. No one is responsible, no one can be held accountable, and such is the nature of all collective action. The only good which men can do to one another and the only statement of their proper relationship is-Hands off!!! Our idea of mankind is general. All we know of it is the people we meet in our lifetime. Of them, one can feel some respect for people when they suffer. They have a certain dignity. But they are different when they are enjoying themselves. Whatever, we need people in our life.

Then there is reference to the Gallant Gallstone, wherein it is said that there is no such thing as free will. We can’t help what we are or what we do. Its not our fault. Nobody’s to blame for anything. It’s all in your background and….and your glands. If you’re good, that’s no achievement of yours-you were lucky in your glands. If you’re rotten, nobody should punish you-you were unlucky, that’s all. – We all agree to this, but when it comes to practice, there are variances.

In the intellectual discussion there was Mitchell Layton who said, that people would be much happier in all regulated society that had a definite pattern and a unified form-like a folk dance. What makes people unhappy is not too little choice, but too much. Jessica Pratt, for whom education is all that we need, we would have a better world.

Altruism-the sacrifice of self to others, live for others. . If physical slavery is repulsive, more repulsive is the slavery of spirit. The man who enslaves himself voluntarily in the name of love is the basest of creatures. He degrades the dignity of man and he degrades the conception of love. Which is the essence of altruism.

Creator: Is the man who disagrees, who swims against the current, stands alone, the egotist. His concern is the conquest of nature, lives for his work, and basic need is independence. Men have been thought that highest virtue is to give, relive others from suffering. But one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before destruction. We should not shrug at an act of achievement.

Egotism is the sacrifice of others to self, and

‘ From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man-the function of his reasoning mind’.

Neither politics nor ethics nor philosophy is an end in itself, neither in life nor in literature. Only Man is an end in himself.

‘Whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of mans nature and of life’s potential.’

And this book has given an answer to most of my doubts and questions: And the answer is ‘mans ego is the fountainhead of human progress’ Thanks for it....

A lovely birthday present!!!

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