The style of a soul

“What’s the matter with both of you, Ellsworth? Why such talk—over nothing at all? People’s faces and first impressions don’t mean a thing.”

“That, my dear Kiki,” he answered, his voice soft and distant, as if he were giving an answer, not to her, but to a thought of his own, “is one of our greatest common fallacies. There’s nothing as significant as a human face. Nor as eloquent. We can never really know another person, except by our first glance at him. Because, in that glance, we know everything. Even though we’re not always wise enough to unravel the knowledge. Have you ever thought about the style of a soul, Kiki?”

“The … what?”

“The style of a soul. Do you remember the famous philosopher who spoke of the style of a civilization? He called it ‘style.’ He said it was the nearest word he could find for it. He said that every civilization has its one basic principle, one single, supreme, determining conception, and every endeavor of men within that civilization is true, unconsciously and irrevocably, to that one principle. … I think, Kiki, that every human soul has a style of its own, also. Its one basic theme. You’ll see it reflected in every thought, every act, every wish of that person. The one absolute, the one imperative in that living creature. Years of studying a man won’t show it to you. His face will. You’d have to write volumes to describe a person. Think of his face. You need nothing else.”

“That sounds fantastic, Ellsworth. And unfair, if true. It would leave people naked before you.”

“It’s worse than that. It also leaves you naked before them. You betray yourself by the manner in which you react to a certain face. To a certain kind of face. … The style of your soul … There’s nothing important on earth, except human beings. There’s nothing as important about human beings as their relations to one another. …”

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

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  • Luis Eduardo Barrueto  On April 2, 2011 at 5:50 am

    Just wondering, who is this philosopher Ayn Rand refers to? The one who speaks about the style of civilization/soul?

  • Aristotle The Geek  On April 10, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I am not sure about this, but she could be referring to Oswald Spengler. A passage from an English translation-

    Every Culture possesses a wholly individual way of looking at and comprehending the world-as-Nature; or (what comes to the same thing) it has its own peculiar “Nature” which no other sort of man can possess in exactly the same form. But in a far greater degree still, every Culture — including the individuals comprising it (who are separated only by minor distinctions) — possesses a specific and peculiar sort of history — and it is in the picture of this and the style of this that the general and the personal, the inner and the outer, the world-historical and the biographical becoming, are immediately perceived, felt and lived.

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