It Only Takes One Man

What follows is a quote from The Fountainhead (more specifically, a quote from the latter part of the 25th anniversary edition introduction). I quote the following today – the day of my 22nd birth day – because this passage strikes me like few other collections of ink on paper ever have.

As such, rather than ask for something on the anniversary day of my birth, this is my gift to all those that read my blog and follow my work.

I have not modified it in any way, other than the bolding of specific parts that I found especially moving.

From The Fountainhead

It is this highest level of man’s emotions that has to be redeemed from the murk of mysticism and redirected at its proper object: man.

It is in this sense, with this meaning and intention, that I would identify the sense of life dramatized in The Fountainhead as man-worship.

It is an emotion that a few – a very few – men experience consistently; some men experience it in rare single sparks that flash and die without consequences; some do not know what I am talking about; some do and spend their lives as frantically virulent spark-extinguishers.

Do not confuse “man-worship” with the many attempts, not to emancipate morality from religion and bring it into the realm of reason, but to substitute a secular meaning for the word, the most profoundly irrational elements of religion. For instance, there are all the variants of modern collectivism (communist, fascist, Nazi, etc.), which preserve the religious-altruist ethics in full and merely substitute “society” for God as the beneficiary of man’s self-immolation. There are the various schools of modern philosophy which, rejecting the law of identity, proclaim that reality is an indeterminate flux ruled by miracles and shaped by whims – not God’s whims, but man’s or “society’s”. These neo-mystics are not man-worshipers; they are merely the secularizers of as profound a hatred for man as that of their avowedly mystic predecessors.

A cruder variant of the same hatred is represented by those concrete-bound “statistical” mentalities who – unable to grasp the meaning of man’s volition – declare that man cannot be an object of worship, since they have never encountered any specimens of humanity who deserved it.

The man-worshipers, in my sense of the term, are those who see man’s highest potential and strive to actualize it. The man-haters are those who regard man as a helpless, depraved, contemptible creature – and struggle never to let him discover otherwise. It is important here to remember that the only direct, introspective knowledge of man anyone possesses is of himself.

More specifically, the essential division between these two camps is: those dedicated to the exaltation of man’s self-esteem and the sacredness of his happiness on earth – and those determined not to allow either to become possible. The majority of mankind spend their lives and psychological energy in the middle, swinging between these two, struggling not to allow the issue to be named. This does not change the nature of the issue.

Perhaps the best way to communicate The Fountainhead’s sense of life is by means of the quotation which had stood at the head of my manuscript, but which I removed from the final, published book. With this opportunity to explain it, I am glad to bring it back.

I removed it, because of my profound disagreement with the philosophy of its author, Friedrich Nietzsche. Philosophically, Nietzsche is a mystic and an irrationalist. His metaphysics consists of a somewhat “Byronic” and mystically “malevolent” universe; his epistemology subordinates reason to “will”, or feeling or instinct or blood or innate virtues of character. But, as a poet, he projects at times (not consistently) a magnificent feeling for man’s greatness, expressed in emotional, not intellectual terms.

This is especially true of the quotation I had chosen. I could not endorse its literal meaning: it proclaims an indefensible tenet – psychological determinism. But if one takes it as a poetic projection of an emotional experience (and if, intellectually, one substitutes the concept of an acquired “basic premise” for the concept of an innate “fundamental certainty”), then that quotation communicates the inner state of an exalted self-esteem – and sums up the emotional consequences for which The Fountainhead provides the rational, philosophical base:

“It is not the works, but the belief which is here decisive and determines the order of rank – to employ once more an old religious formula with a new and deeper meaning, – it is some fundamental certainty which a noble soul has about itself, something which is not to be sought, is not to be found, and perhaps, also, is not to be lost. – The noble soul has reverence for itself. –“ (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.)

This view of man has rarely been expressed in human history. Today, it is virtually non-existent. Yet this is the view with which – in various degrees of longing, wistfulness, passion, and agonized confusionthe best of mankind’s youth start out in life. It is not even a view, for most of them, but a foggy, groping, undefined sense made of raw pain and incommunicable happiness. It is a sense of enormous expectation, the sense that one’s life is important, that great achievements are within one’s capacity, and that great things lie ahead.

It is not in the nature of man – nor of any living entity – to start out by giving up, by spitting in one’s own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption whose rapidity differs from man to man. Some give up at the first touch of pressure; some sell out; some run down by imperceptible degree and lose their fire, never knowing when or how they lost it. Then all of these vanish in the vast swamp of their elders who tell them persistently that maturity consists of abandoning one’s mind; security, of abandoning one’s values; practicality, of losing self-esteem. Yet a few hold on and move on, knowing that that fire is not to be betrayed, learning how to give it shape, purpose and reality. But whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man’s nature and of life’s potential.

There are very few guideposts to find. The Fountainhead is one of them.

This is one of the cardinal reasons of The Fountainhead’s lasting appeal: it is a confirmation of the spirit of youth, proclaiming man’s glory, showing how much is possible.

It does not matter that only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of man’s proper stature – and that the rest will betray it. It is those few that move the world and give life its meaning – and it is those few that I have always sought to address. The rest are no concern of mine; it is not me or The Fountainhead that they will betray: it is their own souls.

Ayn Rand

New York, May 1968

After the conclusion of filming one episode of The Community Tapes, the director, myself, and the interviewee for that day were driving across town. At some point, the conversation ventured into what I want to do with The 21 Convention.

My immediate and very serious answer to this question was, I want to change the course of a generation. The answer was met with a mildly skeptical “Well, it only takes one man”.

My response was: why can’t that man be me?

The response then was a long, ambiguous line of rationalizations and reasons why that was highly unlikely and not “really” possible.

The reality is, that man can be me. Same as it can be anyone reading this blog.

The problem with my generation lies in the infrequency that this question is asked: why can’t that individual be me?

Why can’t I change the world?

I carry no delusions. While I certainly hold it to be possible that I can change the world, this idea alone provides zero guarantee that anything of the sort will happen.

However, this is aside the point. The point is, more people need to be asking themselves these types of questions. Not asking them is the dereliction of responsibility for our own lives, freedom, and well being – the source of what has led us to current problems world-wide.

When more individuals rise up and ask themselves these types of questions, in all seriousness, the quality of all our lives will improve dramatically.

For it is men and women that ask themselves these things that open the door to such change – for all of us.

Great men of the past and present are not gods … they are individuals who decided to rise up, stand out, and speak their mind in the face of overwhelming criticism and group consensus to the contrary.

These are the men and women who change the world – and everyone has the potential to be one.

Cheers guys

-Anthony ‘Dream’ Johnson

About Anthony Dream Johnson

CEO, founder, and architect of The 21 Convention, Anthony Dream Johnson is the leading force behind the world's first and only "panorama event for life on earth". He has been featured on WGN Chicago, and in the NY Times #1 best seller The Four Hour Work Week.    His stated purpose for the work he does is "the actualization of the ideal man", a purpose that has led him to found and host The 21 Convention across 3 continents and for 6 years in a row. Anthony blogs vigorously at TheDreamLounge.net and Declarationism.com.

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24 Responses to It Only Takes One Man

  1. Hammer August 25, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    It’s interesting that Ayn Rand is not a Nietzsche fan. Not that I’ve read too much about either, but from what I have read, they don’t seem to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they seem to be relatively synergistic.

    To me, the idea of the will to power being the motivating factor behind our actions and the objective universe in which there is an optimal way to get things done and a sub-optimal way seem to work very nicely with each other. You see something that you want, that will increase your sphere of influence, and you then do a little background research on what the best way to achieve that thing is. Then you take action. Am I vastly over simplifying both of these two great philosophers?

    • anon August 27, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

      you clearly have not read nietzsche, or if you did you clearly didn’t understand it.

      • Anthony 'Dream' Johnson August 27, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

        I’ll let it slide for now, but in the future please use a real e-mail address and first name/nick name, or face DELETION. (That looks so serious it’s laughable, but seriously, use a real e-mail address).

  2. James Steele II August 25, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    Happy Birthday and thankyou for the gift.

    That man can also be me, and I plan to put all my effort into making it so.

    James

  3. Frank August 25, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Why so many people doubt that they can make difference, probably comes from the fact that we all get raised and programmed that way. God forbid anyone actually cuts himself lose from the system, and starts to change his perception of the truth. Thinking for himself instead of copying the patterns and thoughts of those teaching him. There is so much subjective information thrown at people, that it almost cannot be avoided for one to be trapped into tunnelvision when it comes to thinking, acting, LIVING their lives.

    This gets reinforced by social pressure, and the socially accepted standards of behaviour and accepting the fact that “life is how it is”.
    It stops there for most people. There are but few that actually weigh everything, try to understand it at it’s core level, and then process said information in a most balanced way. It’s like reading a school book, and just learning it all by heart, versus actually questioning the author, asking yourself why, checking other resources to get a more well rounded personal view on the same subject.

    I could go on for ages, but I think my point is clear, I stand behind your convention and all you plan to do here. Keep up the work, sources like this are too rare of a sight.

    ~Frank

    • Anthony 'Dream' Johnson September 9, 2010 at 9:40 am #

      Thanks for the kind words Frank. I have been getting your e-mails btw. I will respond eventually, and I look forward to seeing you in Amsterdam or London next Summer.

  4. Frank August 25, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    To add something, since I cannot edit my previous post. I am looking at ways to get involved with this project, this convention aswell. If you are reading this, I am more then determined to make sure that this gets big, or start something of my own. Feel free to hit me up to brainstorm a bit (or possibly more)

    ~Frank

  5. Doug McGuff August 25, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    Happy Birthday!

    You ALREADY ARE that man. You don’t have to create a mass movement to have the Fountainhead effect on the world. You want to appeal to that tiny minority with the best minds. Your influence on them will help to trigger their great influence in the world and the effect multiplies exponentially.

    From what I saw at the 21 Convention, you have already acheived the goal you stated above…now just keep on doing what you are doing throughout your life. Your best response to the doubting Thomas in the car with you would have been to have pulled over and put him out on the shoulder of the highway. Keep throwing off sparks young man…that his how raging wildfires start.

    Doug

    • Anthony 'Dream' Johnson September 9, 2010 at 9:48 am #

      “Keep throwing off sparks young man…that his how raging wildfires start.”

      Thank you for the quote Doug. I will take this to heart.

  6. Ron Kelley August 25, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    You have received inspiration from a very profound book. Not only can you be the man that makes profound changes to the world, you can experience exalted joy from doing so. This is the essence and most important of the emotions Ayn Rand projected in her novels. Nothing else really matters.

  7. Peter X Park August 26, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    This is one of those kind of questions I’ve been thinking for years passing through psych, religion, philosophy, and then pickup.

    Personally, I would say most people don’t take responsibility for their own lives. We have a generation of dependent children delaying adulthood and confusing taking responsibility with “being a square”.

    Ultimately, everyone has some goal, some dream they want to achieve. By first working to achieve my own goals and helping others do the same, that builds a positive momentum. People naturally will see the truth when they start action because reality always wins over illusions.

    One of the greatest things about the 21 Convention is that it is an accepted environment where everyone is encouraged and supported to transform their lives where back home that kind of attitude might be meet with skepticism or doubt.

    • Anthony 'Dream' Johnson August 26, 2010 at 11:16 am #

      “One of the greatest things about the 21 Convention is that it is an accepted environment where everyone is encouraged and supported to transform their lives where back home that kind of attitude might be meet with skepticism or doubt.”

      Could not have said it better myself.

    • M.C. August 26, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

      Personally I don’t think the world needs any more adults. Children are told to grow up and act like adults all the time. What they mean by that is usually “do good in school, get a job that pays good money, start a family, get in line.”

      Taking responsibility for your life and becoming independent isn’t about becoming an adult. An adult is a number, you turn a certain age, you’re an adult, it doesn’t mean anything. We need less adults, and more men.

      Happy Birthday Anthony.

  8. JohnnyB August 27, 2010 at 10:39 pm #

    I’m new to your blog and haven’t yet investigated what your convention is about, but your post was on the money. I’ve lived most of my life with that feeling that I could change the world, that I could be that man, that there is unimaginable potential within each of us if we’ve the courage to find it. Sadly, or perhaps predictably, I’ve lost that fire, by degrees, as the quote described. Thanks for reminding me that we’re here to do something. Your perspective is, I believe, badly needed in this world and highly valued by this man.

  9. Milo September 4, 2010 at 7:56 pm #

    In your veneration of the likes of Ayn Rand do not forget that our understanding of the world is not perfect. The universe as we percieve it is not objective and everything we experience is filtered through our own nervous system, and therefore cannot be considered to be ‘real’. Reality is a tunnel manifested by our own biases and beliefs. There’s a light at the end, but you’ll only die trying to reach it. Just remember that your time is better spent making your own personal tunnel as bright, beautiful and joyous as you can than forever striving for an infinitely distant twinkle.

    • Anthony 'Dream' Johnson September 9, 2010 at 9:36 am #

      “Bright, beautiful, and joyous”

      Great aims, but I look at these and my first thought is that the definitions are unique to the individual. Joyous to me may not be joyous to you. In fact it may be outright misery to you.

      • Milo September 13, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

        I understand what you’re saying. Just remember what I’m saying.

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