Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Salute to Howard Roark

Today marks the third of five installments of Letters to Pilky's first Recognition Week, where we here at LtP recognize those who, well, deserve recognition.

Whenever I'm in doubt about just about anything, I think about what this man would do:
Wait a minute...
Your first thought may have been that this man is God, and while I often think about what God would want me to do in many situations, I have trouble ever actually doing what God would do (mostly because I lack the ability to create the world, create any type of species, flood the world, change myself from spiritual form to human form, burn a bush without it actually burning, or part any bodies of water), so instead, I look to Howard Roark.  "But Young William," you ask, "who is Howard Roark, and why does he look so pale in the picture you just posted of him?"  Well, Howard Roark is a fictional character from an incredible novel called The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, but before you start questioning my sanity if I'm relying on a guy who doesn't even exist to lead my life, I'd like to give you a little bit of background information: (Deep breath...) Howard Roark is what he calls a "prime mover," which basically means that he makes decisions based on his own personal preferences and opinions, rather than what other people pressure him to do.  He is an architect, and is directly contrasted to a man named Peter Keating, who always succumbs to the pressures of meeting social norms and doing what other people to do.  This method of action works out early for Keating, who gets a high paying job out of college but does menial work, while Roark has a hard time finding work because he refuses to do a job where anybody else influences his work.  He believes that his ideas are great, and he doesn't want them to be watered down by others.  Roark is totally content with his life throughout the novel, even though he lives in shabby apartments and has a very low living standard.  Keating, with his nice job and its cushy benefits, ultimately realizes that he is just a puppet for his boss and his customers.  He isn't an architect because he takes great pride in his buildings, but rather because he likes these benefits, while Roark is rewarded by every job he receives, because he takes great pride and joy in his work.  To quote Roark: "Before you can get things done, you must be the kind of man who can get things done.  But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences.  The work, not the people.  Your own action, not any possible object of your charity.  I'll be glad if people who need it find a better manner of living in a house I designed.  But that's not the motive of my work.  Nor my reason.  Nor my reward."

Ayn Rand became an author only after her modeling career didn't work out.
 A recent poll of all people sitting at a northwest window seat of the 12th floor of the library while wearing a 2008 IHSA Baseball State Finals t-shirt, who were given the option of whether different adjectives described Roark came back in this way:
Poll may or may not be scientific
Basically, Roark was happy because he was always doing exactly what he wanted to do.  he was never compromised in any way.  Obviously, this didn't mean that he was always making money, always employed, or always had a full stomach, but it did ensure that he would never regret anything that he did, which very few people can say that they did.  We all look for external validation for our actions, but why?  Will people really respect us more if we decide to always do what they want us to do?  I don't think so.  I think it is much more impressive for someone to stand up for what they believe in, and who they are, even if it means going against the flow or receiving little support.  This also makes success that much more rewarding when it finally does come, because we know that we are fully responsible for it, and it came in a way that we are truly proud of and truly believe in.  Roark didn't allow his ideas to be watered down, and allowed the realizations of these ideas to be the only reward he needed.  He never did something just for a paycheck, or just for recognition.  As he mentions in the earlier quote, he's not opposed to external validation at all, and in fact is in favor of it, but he will never allow for it to be his only motivator.  We all know Peter Keatings; people who will never do anything unless it's supported by the general opinion, or who will immediately look around after they accomplished something because they want people to see how cool they are, but who never go out and do something just for the sake of doing it.  It's impossible for us to totally avoid these things, as we are all social animals, but there really isn't a reason that these types of sentiments should dominate our lives.
I'm pretty sure these guys didn't do this to prove how cool they were.
Long story short, the people that I most respect are Roarkians, and the people I least respect are Keatingians (also known as attention whores).  Thome plays ball for a small salary, in a small market, without much noise, because he loves playing ball, while LeBron James seems to be playing in hopes of blowing himself up into a combination of Michael Jordan, Paris Hilton, and Khloe Kardashian.  Folds plays music he loves, in a style he loves, even though he'll never be as big as the artists who sell themselves out.  William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies, which sold no more than 3000 copies before initially going out of print.  he must have known it would be controversial, and he surely could have found something more popular to write, but he wanted to write his way, because that's something that he was passionate about.  Mother Theresa could have been a televangelist and reaped attention (and money) from around the world, but she did what she loved and was passionate about, and went to Calcutta.  These are the kinds of people that we all respect.  These are the kinds of people that we emulate.
Definitely worth reading.
So here's to you, Howard Roark.  Thanks for showing us it's more important to love something than to be noticed for it.  Thanks for showing us to never let The Man run us down.  Thanks for showing us that we'll always be happy if we stay true to ourselves.  Thanks for showing us that there's nothing wrong with being misunderstood by others as long as we understand ourselves.  And thanks for proving that the most successful people aren't the ones with the most money at the end of the day, or the most fame at the end of the day, or the highest number of successes at the end of the day, but rather those who are able to take the most pride in, and gain the most happiness from, their success.

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