Ayn Rand · books · reading

The Ego- The Selfishness and the Selflessness

“No creator was prompted by a desire to serve his brothers, for his brothers rejected the gift he offered and that gift destroyed the slothful routine of their lives. His truth was his only motive. His own truth, and his own work to achieve it in his own way. A symphony, a book, an engine, a philosophy, an airplane or a building-that was his goal and his life. Not those who heard, read operated, believed, flew or inhabited the thing he had created. The creation, not its users. The creation, not the benefits others derived from it. The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things and against all men.”                                                                       -Howard Roark, the Fountainhead

Much less known than its widely-circulated, widely-accepted and much-publicized twin, the virtue of selfishness as propagated by Ayn Rand is a way of life containing many adaptable components . I am not a ruthless advocate of objectivism, nor a ruthless advocate of what being its opposite could represent: any of socialistic, collective or even democratic intentions. I merely need to state explicitly the importance of being an individual.  Free from moral policing, from social pressure, peer pressure or from the inner contaminations of institutions, none of which are free from flaws.

In four personalities of four fictional characters she immortalized in The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand concentrated on four distinct ways of living: the life of the second-hander, the life of the “humanitarian”, the life of the man who could have been and that of the man who is her idea of an ideal human being; one who knows no compromise, no substitute for hard-work and no price at which to sell himself.

The life of the second-hander is, by far, the life chosen by the weakest of human beings: to rise on the mercy of others, to rise with the tide, to rise with the consent of every human being present. A second-hander reads a book and ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ with his fellow men, his exclamations echoing from face to face and soul to soul like two mirrors opposite one another producing the same image over and over, says Ayn Rand. The second-hander does what he is asked to because others want it; he compromises at every point for a career goal that never really drew him, he does whatever he can to make others respect him, he contributes to the society, to humanitarian causes, to poverty and social welfare whether he wants to or not. What he wants in return is for people to hail him, admire him and make him famous. He wins people over; they whisper about him, applaud him and will support him for as long as he is a public figure or a puppet in their hands. His own happiness becomes secondary; in short he lives like a second hander.

The humanitarian is an advocate of each cause, he needs nothing for himself. He says he is for, by and of the people and he wants nothing but to eradicate poverty, corruption, diseases, pollution, environmental degradation, crime, fraud. The list goes on and on. Perhaps in his own way, unless it is his calling and his craving, a humanitarian gathers powers. People consult him and he draws them through a web of words so kind, so unassuming that they begin to live through him and he is a parasite because he longs for their support, his only voice is through them. He realizes what he is giving up for what he is getting: unlike the second-hander he is well-aware of his position and job. He encourages councils and discourages individuality: ‘You are much less than what you believe yourself to be’, his voice booms. ‘You are petty, petty in the face of this cosmos, a mere tiny speck beating for a nanosecond on the timeline of existence, you know nothing. You who are so busy exploring yourself, trying to understand your own concerns with no thoughts to spare for your suffering neighbor, be uplifted towards Him. Face Him in all humility, bow before He who is God, understand what those around you require and devote yourself to mankind. Devote yourself to the good of every human on this planet and think of the good that we can collectively do’. But if everyone is immersed in representing one another, who indeed is ultimately being represented? Who is finally reaping the benefits of an effort in the name of all of humanity?

The man who could have been is the man who sees a human being for what he really is but does not think he has the power to stand up to them all, he is fooling himself and himself alone: he may earn the heart, the pity of one and all but the emotion of pity is sickening, it is deadening and may every human be spared from feeling true, real pity for anyone, least of all for their own selves for a man worthy of real pity is a man whose case is truly and entirely lost.

A human mind belongs to the human alone. The primary aim of the man who exists thus for himself, is the fulfillment of his own destiny, unguided and unshaped by those who care for him, and unaffected by those who scorn him. That man walks upright, two limbs on the floor pushing him up against the force of gravity and two limbs swinging casually by his side, his head held high above the ground is a fact, a revelation of what he really and truly is to be. A compromise does not become a true compromise until the person making it gives up a part of himself to a cause that is not his and against a vision that was his first and only love. What we call ‘growth’ is losing a bit of ourselves to a compromise that will raise us in the eyes of those around us but will lead to a fall in our own eyes. This fall is unseen and unfelt by anyone but us and is thus unaccounted for to anyone but our own soul which loses a moment with each second it spends doubting the need of its heart.

If you’re working where others want you to, marrying the ‘right person’ as others see it, walking towards the benefit of mankind with a knot inside your stomach weighing you down and pulling you back, then you know it’s wrong for you even though nobody else does. But that then is all that matters: we are not machines; we are alive with thought and senses. Why must we be obliged to accept defeat and why must we succumb to the Power of an Unseen force? That is not being close to God.

God takes one true form: the voice beneath the whispers of our heart that tells us what we truly are. The voice will never tell you you are worthless, the deepest echo inside us always tells us we can move on and that we know better than those around us about what we want and deserve. And to not act accordingly is the greatest sin. It is equivalent to slaying yourself by clipping the wings of the dreams that deserve at least one, if not innumerable, chances to raise its head towards the glorious sun. Ayn Rand may not call this voice God but I do because it is the purest, noblest of everything else we perceive, that truest fibre of goodness within us.

The man as man should be is independent and his own opinions are the golden rules he guides his life by. He cannot share his spirit: he can love only those who truly deserve it and do only that which is truly his calling.

Thus the truest beholder of purity and sincere, untainted love and understanding is an individuals heart- an individual’s construction of life when he is loving for himself, wanting and creating for a truth that is his alone.


5 thoughts on “The Ego- The Selfishness and the Selflessness

  1. I love the way you write Snigdha. I read about your blog in Thestudentsmag.
    Just love the way you think n write.
    It would ve been good knowing you..


  2. Some style to your writing. Loved it. As I was reading your post, a quote from the book ‘Anthem’ came to my mind. Posting it here.
    “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 degrees 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.” – Ayn Rand, Anthem

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