“Joy is the goal of existence, and joy is not to be stumbled upon, but to be achieved, and the act of treason is to let its vision drown in the swamp of the moment’s torture.”
“In what act or thought of his has there ever been a self?
What was his aim in life? Greatness – in other people’s eyes. Fame, admiration, envy – all that which comes from others. Others dictated his convictions, which he did not hold, but he was satisfied that others believed he held them. Others were his motive power and his prime concern. He didn’t want to be great, but to be thought great. It’s his ego that he’s betrayed and given up. And isn’t that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of a self.
Look at them. The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he’s honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he’s great in the eyes of others. The man who wants money for a personal purpose – to invest in his industry, to create, to study, to travel, to enjoy luxury – he’s completely moral. But the men who place money first go much beyond that. Personal luxury is a limited endeavor. What they want is ostentation: to show, to stun, to entertain, to impress others. They’re second handers. Aren’t they all acting on a selfish motive – to be noticed, liked, admired – by others? They place others above self… in the exact manner which altruism demands. A truly selfish man cannot be affected by the approval of others. He doesn’t need it!
It is so easy to run to others. It is so hard to stand on one’s own record. You can fake virtue for an audience. You can’t fake it in your own eyes. Your ego is your strictest judge. They run from it. They spend their lives running. It’s simple to seek substitutes for competence – such easy substitutes: love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence.
That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They’re concerned only with people. They don’t ask ‘Is this true?’ They ask: ‘Is this what others think is true?’ Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not merit, but pull. When you suspend your faculty of independent judgement, you suspend consciousness. To stop consciousness is to stop life. Second-handers have no sense of reality.
Look at everyone around us. You’ve wondered why they suffer, why they seek happiness and never find it… If any man stopped and asked himself whether he’s ever held a truly personal desire… he’d see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He’s not even struggling for material wealth, but for the second-hander’s delusion – PRESTIGE. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggles and no joy when he has succeeded. He can’t say about a single thing: ‘This is what I wanted because I WANTED IT, not because it made my neighbors gape at me. Then he wonders why he’s unhappy. Every form of happiness is private. Our greatest moments are personal, self-motivated, not to be touched.
I think the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern within other man. I’ve always demanded a certain quality in the people I liked. Now I know what it is. A self-sufficient ego. I COULD DIE FOR YOU. BUT I COULDN’T AND WOULDN’T LIVE FOR YOU!”
Ayn Rand / The Fountainhead
“Do you know what you are actually in love with? Integrity. The impossible. The clean, consistent, reasonable, self-faithful, the all-of-one-style, like a work of art. That’s the only field where it can be found – art. But you want it in the flesh.”
“Love is reverence, and worship, and glory, and the upward glance. Not a bandage for dirty sores. But they don’t know it. Those who speak of love most promiscuously are the ones who’ve never felt it. They make some sort of feeble stew out of sympathy, compassion, contempt and general indifference, and they call it love. Once you’ve felt what it means to love as you and I know it – total passion for the total height – you’re incapable of anything less.
When they lay in bed together it was–as it had to be, as the nature of the act demanded–an act of violence. It was surrender, made the more complete by the force of their resistance. It was an act of tension, as the great things on earth are things of tension….It was an act of clenched teeth and hatred, it was the unendurable, the agony, an act of passion–the word born to mean suffering–it was the moment made of hatred, tension, pain–the moment that broke its own elements, inverted them, triumphed, swept into a denial of all suffering, into its antithesis, into ecstasy.”
“You who are worshippers of the zero-you have never discovered that achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death. Joy is not ‘the absence of pain,’ intelligence is not ‘the absence of stupidity,’ light is not ‘the absence of darkness,’ an entity is not ‘the absence of a nonentity.’
Existence is not a negation of negatives. Evil, not value, is an absence and a negation, evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from us. Perish, because we have learned that a zero cannot hold a mortgage over life.
You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.
“You, who have lost the concept of the difference, you who claim that fear and joy are incentives of equal power-and secretly add that fear is the more ‘practical’-you do not wish to live, and only fear of death still holds you to the existence you have damned. You dart in panic through the trap of your days, looking for the exit you have closed, running from a pursuer you dare not name to a terror you dare not acknowledge, and the greater your terror the greater your dread of the only act that could save you: thinking. The purpose of your struggle is not to know, not to grasp or name or hear the thing. I shall now state to your hearing: that yours is the Morality of Death.”