Oct 6, 2009

How Howard Roark Spoke To Me..

I just finished re-reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, again. I first read this book when I was 14 and though I loved it then, I don't think I fully understood it. Ever since, every year or so I have re-read it and it means different things to me at different times. But more than anything, Howard Roark reminds me about the true meaning of selfishness and why it isn't the worst thing in the world if you think of your self when living your own life.


I have always had trouble with people who are so self-sacrificing that they forget who they really are because they are trying so hard to please everyone around them.Howard Roark describes these people as "Second Handers" - people who live their life according to other people and what society expects them to be. I have seen this a lot in Indian society where people do everything to please their parents, their in-laws, their neighbours, their friends and almost everyone but themselves. But I always had trouble with this. I always had to do what ultimately made me happy. Yes sometimes this meant making others unhappy, but at the end of the day, I figured it was my life and I had to choose how to live it and made decisions accordingly. I have offended many people with my "selfishness" especially living in a society which expected you to do a lot of stuff based on what others wanted you to do.

To give an example, when I wanted to study arts in school and college, according to a lot of people I was being selfish. To explain, in India studying arts basically means you're not going to have a very good career. This was selfish because my parents have two daughters and I'm the eldest and I should think of supporting them in the future. By studying arts, I am selfishly flushing my future down the toilet and also not thinking of what will happen to my parents. BUT, arts is what I wanted to do so thats what I studied and I am lucky my parents don't think like the rest of the pack. I was selfish, but in the way Howard Roark describes - the way that makes you happy within, and what ultimately makes you a better person because you are thinking for yourself, living with a complete consciousness of the self.

I am not very good at reviewing books that inspire me so much (there are two or three of these at the moment) so hence I just had to describe how it influences me. I'll end it by quoting Howard Roark and some of the things he says about the importance of self and of second handers and why it is important for every person to be self-ish and not live their own live second hand.

"In the realm of greatest importance - the realm of values, of judgment, of spirit, of thought - they place others above self, in the exact manner which altruism demands. A truly selfish man cannot be affected by the approval of others. He doesn't need it."

"The only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern within other men."

"If any man stopped and asked himself, whether he's ever held a truly personal desire, he'd find the answer. He'd see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He's not really struggling even for material wealth, but for the second-hander's delusion - prestige. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded.

 - Howard Roark

When the going gets tough, Howard Roark's words often inspire me into realising that no matter what anyone else thinks or believes, at the end of the day, I am still doing what makes me happy and so my achievements will give me a joy that no one else will understand. That alone is often enough to keep me going! :)

4 comments:

Psych Babbler said...

Hmm, I read The Fountainhead years and years ago...I did not like it then (probably because I didn't really get most of it) Maybe I should try and give it another go. By the way, may I suggest...do not read books by Sudha Murty...the whole self-sacrificing shit is heaped in there! Gave me the shits. Will be reviewing those soon. And isn't it annoying how people think arts = nothing. Glad your parents were supportive. Had nosey people interfering in my life too. By the way, you probably know this, but the similarity in our lives is a bit too freaky! I'm the older of two daughters too. I took up arts too. I was stubborn and selfish too. :P

Legal Alien said...

The FOuntainhead means a lot to me and yeh maybe you should read it again. Books always mean different things at different points of a person's life I believe. A
I'm looking forward to your review of the books you speak of ;)

And yes I think the similarities should stop amazing us now shouldn't it? Its freaky for sure!

David Brodie said...

It was great reading about your reaction to the Fountainhead.  It was the first book I ever read that I genuinely wanted to discuss with other people (and I studied literature in college).  It's just heartening to know that there are other people out there who have had as profound a reaction to Rand's writing as I have.


I hope all is well and you're still living for your happiness =)

R.Bit said...

Hi David,
Thanks so much for stopping by. I am so happy too to have found another person who enjoyed The Fountainhead as much as me. It's a book I go back to time and again - especially during times when I struggle with finding myself.