“You know, Alvah, it would be terrible if I had a job I really wanted.”
“Well, of all things! Well, of all fool things to say! What do you mean?”
“Just that. That it would be terrible to have a job I enjoyed and did not want to lose.”
“Because I would have to depend on you—you’re a wonderful person, Alvah, but not exactly inspiring, and I don’t think it would be beautiful to cringe before a whip in your hand—oh, don’t protest, it would be such a polite little whip, and that’s what would make it uglier. I would have to depend on our boss Gail—he’s a great man, I am sure, only I’d just as soon never set eyes on him.”
“Whatever gives you such a crazy attitude? When you know that Gail and I would do anything for you, and I personally …”
“It’s not only that, Alvah. It’s not you alone. If I found a job, a project, an idea or a person I wanted—I’d have to depend on the whole world. Everything has strings leading to everything else. We’re all so tied together. We’re all in a net, the net is waiting, and we’re pushed into it by one single desire. You want a thing and it’s precious to you. Do you know who is standing ready to tear it out of your hands? You can’t know, it may be so involved and so far away, but someone is ready, and you are afraid of them all. And you cringe and you crawl and you beg and you accept them—just so they’ll let you keep it. And look at whom you come to accept.”
“If I’m correct in gathering that you’re criticizing mankind in general …”
“You know, it’s such a peculiar thing—our idea of mankind in general. We all have a sort of vague, glowing picture when we say that, something solemn, big and important. But actually all we know of it is the people we meet in our lifetime. Look at them. Do you know any you’d feel big and solemn about? There’s nothing but housewives haggling at pushcarts, drooling brats who write dirty words on the sidewalks, and drunken débutantes. Or their spiritual equivalents. As a matter of fact, one can feel some respect for people when they suffer. They have a certain dignity. But have you ever looked at them when they’re enjoying themselves? That’s when you see the truth. Look at those who spend the money they’ve slaved for—at amusement parks and side shows. Look at those who’re rich and have the whole world open to them. Observe what they pick out for enjoyment. Watch them in the smarter speakeasies. That’s your mankind in general. I don’t want to touch it.”
“But hell! That’s not the way to look at it. Thats not the whole picture. There’s some good in the worst of us. There’s always a redeeming feature.”
“So much the worse. Is it an inspiring sight to see a man commit a heroic gesture, and then learn that he goes to vaudeville shows for relaxation? Or see a man who’s painted a magnificent canvas—and learn that he spends his time sleeping with every slut he meets?”
“What do you want? Perfection?”
“—or nothing. So, you see, I take the nothing.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“I take the only desire one can really permit oneself. Freedom, Alvah, freedom.”
“You call that freedom?”
“To ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.”
“What if you found something you wanted?”
“I won’t find it. I won’t choose to see it. It would be part of that lovely world of yours. I’d have to share it with all the rest of you—and I wouldn’t. You know, I never open again any great book I’ve read and loved. It hurts me to think of the other eyes that have read it and of what they were. Things like that can’t be shared. Not with people like that.”
“Dominique, it’s abnormal to feel so strongly about anything.”
“That’s the only way I can feel. Or not at all.”

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

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  • Abhishek  On April 16, 2009 at 2:35 am

    Heh. You have a talent for quoting Fountainhead passages I particularly like :)

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