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Howard Roark: “I didn’t know it then, but it’s because I’ve never believed in God.”
Henry Cameron: “Come on, talk sense.”
Howard Roark: “Because I love this earth. That’s all I love. I don’t like the shape of things on the earth. I want to change them.”
Henry Cameron: “For whom?”
Howard Roark: “For myself.”
~ The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
Question: Acharya Ji, Pranaam! When asked by Cameron about his career choice, why did Roark (the protagonist in Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’) say, “I’ve never believed in God,” while he seems to be the one who actually does?
Acharya Prashant Ji: Most people blame of shape of things on Earth, on God. Most people say, “God is the father, the creator. So if things on the Earth are ugly, who is responsible? God.”
And this is accepted.
Isn’t this a great fad in Spirituality, – ‘Accept things as they are’? When you say, “Accept things as they are,” what you are saying is, “After all it is God’s wish, how can you not accept it?”
“If things are totally rotten, why are they totally rotten? Who is the prime mover? God. He is the doer, He did it. And if He did it, who are you to not to accept His wish, His designs? In fact you must accept what it is and say, ‘Whatever God does is for the good’.”
Roark is demolishing that myth. He is saying, “I love this Earth and I fully well know that how man lives on Earth, and what shape he gives to the Earth, what life he spends on the Earth. The entire quality of his existence is not dictated by any agency outside of himself.”
Man has an inherent Freedom.
Man has the capacity to choose.
And man must take responsibility of how he is living his life, what he has turned the Earth into.
In fact there can be only one purposeful action, and that purpose has to be – demolition.
In fact I feel impelled to say this – when I was in the process of quitting my corporate career and moving to teaching, I was asked by many people, “Why are you doing this?” I would say many things, but the one thing that I often said, and said most emphatically, convincingly, honestly is, “I do not like the way people are. I just do not like the way people are, so I must do something about that.”
And it’s great Sonali (the questioner) that you have quoted Roark here, and he says, “I love this earth, that’s all I love. I don’t like the shape of things on earth. I want to change them.”
Happens to remind me of myself.
What else can be a purpose, except demolition? Even Freedom cannot be a purpose. The purpose has to be Freedom from bondage. Freedom is so absolute that it cannot be a purpose to be realised, a target to be attained.
A purpose has to be earthly, a purpose has to be tangible. So Absolute Freedom cannot be a purpose. Freedom from the rotten, must be a purpose. Freedom from bondages, and ignorance, and illusion must be the purpose.
You have to start-off by saying, “There is this that must not exist and it still does. I will eliminate it.” And this, ‘the thing’ that you are talking of, pointing at, can be something within you, can be something outside of you, can be both within you and outside of you. It could be the faces of men that one dislikes, or it could be faces of buildings.
Do not turn God into your pretty accomplice in your mean intentions. You don’t want to really work, or you are too lazy for Real work, and then you say, “O! That’s what God wants.”
Responsibility, responsibility, responsibility!
You are not a victim of God.
You are not even a creation of God, how can you be a victim? God left you with the total power and responsibility to create yourself. You create yourself. Don’t even say, “This is the way God has created me.”
If God has given you anything, it’s just the freedom, the power, and the responsibility to create yourself.
You are your own father, God is just the background.
God is just the canvas on which you paint yourself.
God is the brush, God is the colour, God is the canvas, but the design and the painting is yours.
If what you paint looks horrible, do not blame God.
God gave you choice.
You misused the choice, or you used it terribly well.
Both possibilities are there.
On the same canvas, with the same brush, with the same colours, the painting can be awful or awesome. You are the painter, God is the facilitator.
God is the passive background, He does not actively interferes in your lives.
He is the provider, He is the Sky.
The entire universe is contained in space, is it not? But does space actively interfere with the universe? Space lets things happen in the universe. Don’t blame space for anything.
So Roark says, “I do not believe in the common notion of God that is used to evade responsibility and accountability.” When Roark says, “I do not believe in God,” he is saying, “I do not believe in the common notion of God.”
Roark is obviously a great devotee. He has great Faith.
What is ‘God’?
God is a ‘beyondness’.
God is that which cannot be touched, not spoiled.
God is that which is not available to be transacted.
And if there is one God-lover in the entire text, it is Howard Roark. He surely has something which cannot be touched, spoiled, or sold-off.
Toohey (another character in ‘The Fountainhead’) keeps talking of God, he has no God. Toohey’s life is entirely bereft of Godliness. Roark has Faith, Roark has Surrender. Roark has something that transcends his immediate conditions. That is ‘Godliness’.
Your best Gratitude towards God, and your truest tribute to God is to exercise the faculty of choice given to you in a Godly way.
By praying to the fictitious figure of God, the Father, you hardly display any Godliness.
Godliness is when you say, “I will exercise my life choices in a Godly way.”
What is a ‘Godly way’?
A way that has some transcendence, a way that is not entirely of the mud.
Otherwise on the Earth there is just mud.
What else is the Earth?
Living on the Earth if you can still choose the Sky, then that is called – ‘Love of God’.
That is what Roark does.
Watch the session video: Man living godly is the only real proof of God || Acharya Prashant, on ‘The Fountainhead’ (2019) The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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