Thursday, April 05, 2007


The other day I decided to begin rereading The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. This has to be one of my all time favorite books. Ayn Rand, as a person, mystifies me. Although I am no expert, her philosophy, Objectivism, is both highly reasonable and completely ludicrous. However, regardless of her ideology, this book is an absolute masterpiece.

While I have a great deal of admiration for Howard Roark, our hero, I find myself wondering how horrible it would be to be the kind of person that he is. I like being a person rules by emotion and instinct. I think it would be a cold, albeit noble, existence to exist solely for self-satisfaction and pursue that with rigorous logic. As someone said to him, while trying to add some columns to his building (funniest movie scene ever by the way), “in practical life, one can’t always be so flawlessly consistent. There is always the incalculable human element of emotion. We can’t fight that with cold logic”. Nor would most of us want to.

The other facet of Objectivism that I really have a hard time grasping is the idea that all in life should contribute to making the self as happy as possible, which is fine, but that in doing so all altruistic actions are seen as detrimental to the pursuit of happiness for the self. Maybe I am one of the few that get personal satisfaction helping others, but I don’t think I am by any means alone in this. I think altruism is something many people hold dear. However, since she also says there is no place for faith in a true Objectivists life, then maybe she would find more people open to this idea. Then again, I’m not big on faith but I sure am big on altruism. The whole Capitalist thing in Objectivism is also something that makes a lot of sense to me but also something that I can’t totally buy into. But it is to a lesser extent than the others so it isn’t as important to mention.

In fact, I think I lack a lot of necessary qualities to be a true Objectivist. Not that I really want to be, but I think it is interesting that I can look at a philosophy and see so much in it that I admire and yet want nothing to do with it. I do, however want to be like Howard Roark. This presents quite a problem for me because he is a character based on the Objectivist ideal. He has incredibly strong convictions and a sense of purity about him and his passions. He cannot compromise on his work because he loves it and it is an integral part of him. He exists to create and build that which is most important to him. He would rather toil endlessly an a job where his talents aren’t used at all then to compromise his integrity and do a job in a way that compromises his true love for his creations. I find this all incredibly beautiful.

I also find it incredibly depressing. I wonder how many people of conviction with a true passion for their work have decided to stop because I wasn’t well received. How often is a true genius overlooked by the establishment and resigned to their insignificant fate, unable to create what they know they can and unable to compromise to create anything less than ideal? Such immense tragedy lies in that thought. Sadly, much art needs to be commissioned. Much writing can’t be written because no one will publish it. How many times do we hear about great works of all genres that were almost never made, published, painted, etc. because of financial problems? Far too many. I hope we can find some of those pieces. I hope we find them in their purest and unadulterated states. I hope that they come to mean something to someone. That is the true purpose of art.

Then again, maybe we should be mourning the pieces that were compromised for the sake of being put in front of the public eye? Should we look at everything we are fed and wonder if it is the creator’s intention that it come cross that way. I guess it leaves us realizing we have to create for ourselves. I think that, in a way, is what blogs, podcasts, youtube videos, etc. have become. It’s a place for us to speak out, uncensored, about what we feel is important. It’s a place where anyone and everyone can create their ideals and share them with the world. I think Ayn Rand would have been proud of bloggers, well some of them at any rate. Which is kind of disturbing to me.

1. What happened to/ The world we knew/ When we were dreaming, scheming/ Whiling the time away.

2. Megan/ She don’t eat bacon/ She never killed a sweet innocent little piggy to get bacon.

3. Fuck the police/ coming straight from the underground/ a young nigga got it bad cause I’m brown/ and not the other color/ so police think/ they have the authority to kill a minority. Fuck THa Police, NWA. Identified by Johnny Yen

4. Something’s wrong cause my mind is fading/ and everywhere I look there’s a dead end waiting/ Temperatures dropping at the rotten oasis/ stealing kisses from the leprous faces. Devil's Haircut, Beck. Identified by Monica

5. Little salamander/ Where did you go/ Edge of the yard/ I found you, you know/ All brown and hard.


Johnny Yen said...

#3 is "Fuck Tha Police" by NWA.

I don't know if you've seen any Northwest Orient Airlines airplanes lately-- the company has changed their logo to a simplified "NWA." I can't help laughing every time I see their planes (I saw some at the Seattle airport yesterday).

Weird coincidence-- the guy next to me on the plane-- the one who had a Tangeray and tonic at 9:45-- was reading The Fountainhead.

I've never been able to finish an Ayn Rand novel. She was a bizarre, contradictory person.

One of my old drinking buddies, in my bad old days, was an old musician, a sax player. He refused to take commercial work, saying it would ruin the purity of his art. He was, as a result, extremely poor. His grown children resented the fact that they'd grown up in poverty because of his "purity." I argued with him (to no avail) that by taking the commercial work, he could have the freedom to be more creative in his other work-- and that he might find a wider audience. A lot of my favorite actors do or did this-- Burt Lancaster, for instance, took his wife's advice-- do one for your heart and another for your wallet. As a consequence, Lancaster was able to do things like "Local Hero" for scale.

Danielle said...

To the depths that was. I know I blog for creative release and just knowing someone is reading my words is a big turn on.
One of these days the ol' shuffle will be good to me.

Be well
All day I am thinking it is Sunday. I thought before reading wow she's writing on the weekend. All day thinking it's Sunday.

Strange indeed.

Monica said...

4 Devil's Haircut - Beck

Dude... You are a trip. Aside from that though, I love that book. SO MUCH. Sadly, there are way too many Peter Keatings in this world.

Mom said...

Phooey -- I knew I recognized #4 but couldn't put my finger on it.

Many years ago when I was still programming educational software, the artists I worked with told me about someone who come and interviewed for a job even though he told them that doing art for money would be "prostituting" his talents. They were not impressed with his talents or his philosophy. I, personally, vote for the "heart and wallet" approach. But not every genius is capable of doing that.

Phil said...

I've never read an Ayn Rand, but you are the only person that has ever made that book seem like a good read. Maybe I will pick it up now.

I had number 4 but Monica beat me to it, she is now, of course, my enemy.

dmarks said...

I wonder if I should try to reread it again? This is the book that I tried to read 3 or 4 times, and could not get into it.

janeylynne said...

You are making me want to read it as well. What an interesting dichotomy...that struggle between the purity of your art and the rampant degradation of art in the commercial world. Sadly, all too often, people are lured in by money and their works are compromised because of it. Or is it better to struggle and end up as something less than a huge success. Is it enough to be loved by no one but your family?? And what of those artists like Van Gogh who sold but one painting alive and became one of the greatest masters of his trade, albeit posthumously...?

Definitely going to get this book the next time I'm at the library.

Natalie said...

Johnny- Growing up in MPLS the home of NW Airlines I constantly saw headlines about things that NWA was doing. I was very confused for some time. I agree that if you alternate between heart and wallet you'll probably be both satisfied artistically and financially for the most part.

Danielle- Wow, Sunday is a few days off. Did you hide any eggs?

Monica- Thanks, I love it so much too. I want to find a Peter Keating and stink palm him.

Mom- Why would someone advertise that, except to feel morally superior. Even Roark just said no. What an ass.

Phil- she is my enemy too. I understand.

Dmarks- I am that way with War and Peace, I don't think I'll pick it up again.

Janeylynne- I think it is a love it or hate it read. I loved it from the get go but I can see where some people wouldn't.

thethinker said...

I read The Fountainhead. That has got to be the most difficult book I've read thus far.

it's the little things... said...

Ayn Rand was an interesting lady, but she died a bitter and unsatisfied woman as Objectivism never reached the heights she hoped it would.
I've read a lot of her work, and love Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
In theory it would be lovely if we only had to watch out for self, and didn't need unemployment, or welfare of financial assistance of any kind.
But what about those that cannot care for themselves? Who are born to parents who don't do their jobs?
This is where objectivism falls apart.
Still love her novels though...

Katrina said...

#5 is The Body by The Presidents of the United States of America

Supposeldy that's what Steven Spielberg does, one for them and one for me. It definitely seems to work because even the ones he does for himself do pretty well. Have no idea what is philosophy is though.

Travis said...

One must eat. And if one has a family, one must feed that family.

There are basic needs to be met, and if you refuse to compromise your talents to meet those needs, then you must rely on someone else or find another way to meet them.

How supremely selfish.

Having said that, the purity of genius talent is so see something uncorrupted is a treat. And the selfishness to hold fast to ideals and create that art can be respected in the result.

Thus the dichotomy which you so eloquently describe.

CS said...

There are some scientists who say that even altruism isn't really alruistic because you do good things for others because it makes you feel good. But I don't buy it - I think the feel good part is just a bonus. I don't believe anyone is purely altruistic, but I alwys think being purely for yourself would be pretty hollow.