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 confusion – the 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.
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.
-Anthony ‘Dream’ Johnson