Archives for posts with tag: Ayn Rand

Guilty?

Guiltier than I had known, far guiltier than I had thought–guilty of the evil of damning as guilt that which was my best.

I damned the fact that my mind and body were a unit, and that my body responded to the values of my mind.

I damned the fact that joy is the core of existence, the motive power of every loving being, that it is the need of one’s body as it is the goal of one’s spirit, that my body was not a weight of inanimate muscles, but an instrument able to give me an experience of superlative joy to unite my flesh and my spirit.

That capacity, which I damned as shameful, had left me indifferent to sluts, but gave me my one desire in answer to a woman’s greatness.

That desire, which I damned as obscene, did not come from the sight of her body, but from the knowledge that the lovely form I saw, did express the spirit I was seeing–it was not her body that I wanted, but her person.

To you, my sweet.

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All right–he thought, turning away from the window–he would concede that attacks of loneliness had begun to strike him at times; but it was a loneliness to which he was entitled, it was a hunger for the response of some living, thinking mind. He was so tired of all those people, he thought in contemptuous bitterness; he dealt with cosmic rays, while they were unable to deal with an electric storm.

. . .

You see, Dr. Stadler, people don’t want to think. And the deeper they get into trouble, the less they want to think. But by some sort of instinct, they feel that they ought to and it makes them feel guilty. So they’ll bless and follow anyone who gives them a justification for not thinking. Anyone who makes a virtue–a highly intellectual virtue–out of what they know to be their sin, their weakness and their guilt.

. . .

Miss Taggart, do you know the hallmark of the second-rater? It is the resentment of another man’s achievement. These touchy mediocrities who sit trembling lest someone’s work prove greater than their own–they have no inkling of the loneliness that comes when you reach the top. The loneliness for an equal–for a mind to respect and an achievement to admire. They bare their teeth at you from out of their rat holes, thinking that you take pleasure in letting your brilliance dim them–while you’d give a yea of your life to see a flicker of talent anywhere among them. They envy achievement, and their dream of greatness is a world where all men have become their acknowledged inferiors. They don’t know that that dream is the infallible proof of mediocrity, because that sort of world is what the man of achievement would not be able to bear. They have no way of knowing what he feels when surrounded by inferiors–hatred? no, not hatred, but boredom–the terrible, hopeless, draining, paralyzing boredom. Of what account are praise and adulation from men whom you don’t respect? Have you ever felt the longing for someone you could admire? For something, not to look down at, but up to?”

. . .

“Do you still need proof that I’m always waiting for you?” she asked, leaning obediently back in her chair; her voice was neither tender nor pleading, but bright and mocking.

“Dagny, why is it that most women would never admit that, but you do?”

“Because they’re never sure that they ought to be wanted. I am.”

“I do admire self-confidence.”

“Self-confidence was only one part of what I said, Hank.”

“What’s the whole?”

“Confidence of my  value–and yours.”

“Are you saying,” he asked slowly, “that I rose in your estimation when you found that I wanted you?”

“Of course.”

“That’s not the reaction of most people of being wanted.”

“It isn’t.”

“Most people feel that they rise in their own eyes, if others want them.”

“I feel that others live up to me, if they want me. And that is the way you feel too, Hank, about yourself–whether you admit it or not.”

Rearden chuckled. “If you understand that much, we have at least a sensible basis for conversation. Proceed on that. If you don’t have some fancy investment in mind, what did you want to meet me for?”

“In order to become acquainted with you.”

“That’s not an answer. It’s just another way of saying the same thing.”

“Not quite, Mr. Rearden.”

“Unless you mean–in order to gain my confidence?”

“No. I don’t like people who speak or think in terms of gaining anybody’s confidence. If one’s actions are honest, one does not need the predated confidence of others, only their rational perception. The person who craves a moral blank check of that kind, has dishonest intentions, whether he admits it to himself or not.

. . .

“Let us say–by way of gratitude, Mr. Rearden.”

“Gratitude to me?”

“If you will accept it.”

Rearden’s voice hardened. “I haven’t asked for gratitude. I don’t need it.”

“I have not said you needed it. But of all those whom you are saving from the storm tonight, I am the only one who will offer it.”

After a moment’s silence, Rearden asked, his voice low with a sound which was almost a threat, “What are you trying to do?”

“I am calling your attention to the nature of those for whom you are working.”

“It would take a man who’s never done an honest day’s work in his life, to think or say that.” The contempt in Rearden’s voice had a note of relief; he had been disarmed by a doubt of his judgment on the character of his adversary; now he felt certain once more. “You wouldn’t understand it if I told you that the man who works, works for himself, even if he does carry the whole wretched bunch of you along. Now I’ll guess what you’re thinking: go ahead, say that it’s evil, that I’m selfish, conceited, heartless, cruel. I am. I don’t want any part of that tripe about working for others. I’m not.

For the first time, he saw the look of a personal reaction in Francisco’s eyes, the look of something eager and young. “The only thing that’s wrong in what you said,” Francisco answered, “is that you permit anyone to call it evil.” In  Rearden’s pause of incredulous silence, he pointed at the crowd in the drawing room. “Why are you willing to carry them?”

“Because they’re a bunch of miserable children who struggle to remain alive, desperately and very badly, while I–I don’t even notice the burden.”

“Why don’t you tell them that?”

“What?”

“That you’re working for your own sake, not theirs.”

“They know it.”

“Oh yes, they know it. Every single one of them here knows it. But they don’t think you do. And the aim of all their efforts is to keep you from knowing it.”

“Why should I care what they think?”

“Because it’s–a battle in which one must make one’s stand clear.”

“A battle? What battle? I hold the whip hand. I don’t fight the disarmed.”

“Are they? They have a weapon against you. It’s their only weapon, but it’s a terrible one. Ask yourself what it is, some time.”

“Where do you see any evidence of it?”

“In the unforgivable act that you’re as unhappy as you are.”

Nobody ever wondered whether Francisco d’Anconia was good-looking or not; it seemed irrelevant; when he entered a room, it was impossible to look at anyone else. People explained him by saying that he had the vitality of a healthy animal, but they knew dimly that was not correct. He had the vitality of a healthy human being, a thing so rare that no one could identify it. He had the power of certainty.

“If you came here dressed like this in order not to let me notice how lovely you are,” he said, “you miscalculated. You’re lovely: I wish I could tell you what a relief it is to see a face that’s intelligent though a woman’s. But you don’t want to hear that. That’s not what you came here for.

. . .

“No? But haven’t I the right to be what is now accepted as human? Should I pay for everybody’s mistake and never be permitted one of my own?”

“That’s not like you.”

“No?” He stretched himself full-length on the carpet, lazily, relaxing. “Did you intend for me to notice that if you think I did it on purpose, then you still give me credit for having a purpose? You’re still unable to accept me as a bum?”

She closed her eyes. She heard him laughing; it was the gayest sound in the world. She opened her eyes hastily; but there was no hint of cruelty in his face, only pure laughter.

“My motive, Dagny? You don’t think that it’s the simplest one of all–the spur of the moment?”

No, she thought, no, that’s not true; not if he laughed like that, not if he looked as he did. The capacity for unclouded enjoyment, she thought, does not belong to irresponsible fools; an inviolate peace of spirit is not the achievement of a drifter; to be able to laugh like that is the end result of the most profound, most solemn thinking.

“You’re unbearably conceited,” was one of the two sentences she heard throughout her childhood, even though she never spoke of her own ability. The other sentence was: “You’re selfish.” She asked what was meant, but never received an answer. She looked at the adults, wondering how they could imagine that she would feel guilt from an undefined accusation.

. . .

Motive power–you can’t imagine how important that is. That’s the heart of everything.

 

What did they seek from him?–thought Rearden–what were they after? He had never asked anything of them; it was they who wished to hold him, they who pressed a claim on him–and the claim seemed to have the form of affection, but it was a form which he found harder to endure than any sort of hatred. He despised causeless affection, just as he despised unearned wealth. They professed to love him for some unknown reason and they ignored all the things for which he could wish to be loved. He wondered what response they could hope to obtain from him in such manner–if his response was what they wanted. And it was, he thought; else why those constant complaints, those unceasing accusations about his indifference? Why that chronic air of suspicion, as if they were waiting to be hurt? He had never had a desire to hurt them, but he had always felt their defensive, reproachful expectation; they seemed wounded by anything he said, it was not a matter of his words or actions, it was almost  . . . almost as if they were wounded by the mere fact of his being. Don’t start imagining the insane–he told himself severely, struggling to face the riddle with the strictest of his ruthless sense of justice. He could not condemn them without understanding; and he could not understand.

Did he like them? No, he thought; he had wanted to like them, which was not the same. He had wanted it in the name of some unstated potentiality which he had once expected to see in any human being. He felt nothing for them now, nothing but the merciless zero of indifference, not even the regret of a loss. Did he need any person as part of his life? Did he miss the feeling he had wanted to feel? No, he thought. Had he ever missed it? Yes, he thought, in his youth; not any longer.

He observed, with satisfaction, that she was silenced by anger. He liked to observe emotions; they were like red lanterns strung along the dark unknown of another’s personality, marking vulnerable points. But how one could feel a personal emotion about a metal alloy, and what such an emotion indicated, was incomprehensible to him; so he could make no use of his discovery.

“The consensus of the best metallurgical authorities,” he said, “seems to be highly skeptical about Rearden Metal, contending–”

“Drop it, Jim.”

“Well, whose opinion did you take?”

“I don’t ask for opinions.”

“What do you go by?”

“Judgment.”

“Well, whose judgment did you take?”

“Mine.”

“But whom did you consult about it?”

“Nobody.”