The Individual Against Society

“You love your work. God help you, you love it! And that’s the curse. That’s the brand on your forehead for all of them to see.”  So spoke Henry Cameron in Ayn Rand’s masterpiece The Fountainhead.

The producer ethic recognizes that work is the process of making talent tangible. Creation is the process of making the Ideal manifest; there is a spiritual sanctity in the act of work commensurate to the degree that work ethic and production reflects what the individual believes is meritorious.

However, in serving the Ideal- in bringing perfection into an imperfect world- its value can be degraded.

When work- a physical manifestation of the soul- is passed over by indifferent people, most who do not even care to make a cursory examination of the merit in a product, every act of misinterpretation or dismissal, whether benign or malignant, is like ripping the scar off an open wound.

It is more than a professional opportunity that falls through, for the Idealist’s work is a part of him. When it is passed over, it is a statement that the individual who casually dismisses the Ideal-driven producer does not understand, or does not care to understand. It is more than a comment on the work; it is a comment on the values and the spirit which the producer upholds and strives to advance. There is a sublime sadness here that reason, which dictates that popular recognition does not affect merit, cannot assuage.

Righteousness is a master, and a more demanding one than hedonism. Hedonism requires only impulse; righteousness requires self-control.

Battles between good and evil are present everywhere. But they are not so bad, because one expects them. The roles are laid out in advance and one only has to do one’s part- to argue the side of the Ideal to the best of their ability. But this is commonplace, second nature to a true Idealist, who lives out the tenets of their epistemology in every interaction.

What is truly horrific is the monotony of daily life, the unguarded moments when people are not consciously thinking on how they come off to others. Then, when true human nature is glimpsed, one can comprehend true horror.

It hurts the mind, which, once it sees perfection, can only rationally strive towards the absolute. It hurts the heart, which cannot rectify the Ideal with reality.

The soul- the harmonious balance of the mind-body dichotomy- is subject to a constant self-flagellation. For one cannot go on, seeing perfection degraded by apathy. Yet, service towards the Ideal logically should bring nothing but satisfaction.  Yet, to turn away and ignore the greatness of service to the Ideal is to betray it, causing more torment. Again, the disparity wears on the Idealist. It is a constant frustration, perhaps best expressed by Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab:

“This lovely light, it lights not me; all loveliness is anguish to me since I can ne’er enjoy. Gifted with the high perception, I lack the low, enjoying power; damned, most subtly and most malignantly! damned in the midst of paradise.”

So, what ways are living are left to the Idealist?

Freedom could come in the form of complete independence from society- to expect nothing and depend on no one.

But, this means accepting a tyranny of another kind, because then one must struggle against the fundamental impulses of service to the Ideal. Doing this means ceasing to pursue the Ideal in the hopes that refusing to expose its merit to an uncaring world will protect it.

But this approach comes at such an expense to the soul- overwhelming weariness that transcends the entirety of being. And bitterness, testiness, which becomes directed especially towards those who were formerly amongst the most loved, the most admired. For, one begins to see, those who were the teachers, who inspired contemplation, rationality and love for the highest Ideals, do not themselves fully understand. And that is the cruelest reality of all.

One becomes jealous of privacy. Anything, no matter how small and trivial, that is known only to the self is precious because it is not shared with the world, and is therefore corrupted.

And, thus, the great is pulled down from its throne and replaced by meaningless pettiness. The work of tyranny, in tearing down merit and raising up the basest things, is completed by the minds that would serve the Ideal.

Which is better- to numb oneself to the trudge of daily life, to accept the trivial annoyances and injustices as penance, and to have a hand in the raising up of tyranny by one’s resignation, or to fight on, creating sustenance for the forces of despotism by continuing to produce something good and pure? Either way, the price is extracted in the lifeblood of the Idealist. Is it better to be a masochist or a martyr? To live life, dying a little each day, or to kill the soul and let the body go on living through impulse?

Righteousness is a master, and a more demanding one than hedonism. Hedonism requires only impulse; righteousness requires self-control.

That self-control must master not only the ability to discriminate between degrees of merit but also insulate itself from the criticism that comes with living a life grounded in intangible and esoteric Ideals often not tied to corporeal reality. One must understand that apathy is a judgment on others, not the self.

There is a sublime sadness here that reason, which dictates that popular recognition does not affect merit, cannot assuage.

How? That is the essential question, almost as essential as the question of why. But the wherefores are at least hidden in plain sight. Anyone who wishes to find them can do so through analysis and reflection.

“How” is not so empirical. It depends both on the self and the other. The other cannot be controlled. The self can.

And that is the hardest fact to accept- that one’s reality is an absolute, yet its quality is dependent upon the other to a great extent.