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Conversation between Roark and Dominique at a social gathering:
Miss Francon (Dominique): “You’re wrong about Austen, Mr. Roark. He’s very successful. In his profession and mine you’re successful if it leaves you untouched.”
Howard Roark: “How does one achieve that?”
Miss Francon (Dominique): “In one of two ways: by not looking at people at all or by looking at everything about them.”
Howard Roark: “Which is preferable, Miss Francon?”
Miss Francon (Dominique): “Whichever is hardest.”
Howard Roark: “But a desire to choose the hardest might be a confession of weakness in itself.”
Miss Francon (Dominique): “Of course, Mr. Roark. But it’s the least offensive form of confession.”
Howard Roark: “If the weakness is there to be confessed at all.”
(Howard Roark and Dominique are the two main characters in Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’)
~ The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand.
Question: Acharya Ji, Pranaam! Why does Roark say that the desire to choose the hardest is a confession of weakness?
Acharya Prashant Ji: The entire context of the conversation is set in an admission of human weakness. Look at the opening statement.
Dominique says, “In his profession and mine (she is referring to the profession of Austen Heller, one of the characters in ‘The Fountainhead’) you’re successful if it leaves you untouched.”
You are glorifying the enemy.
It’s like saying that you are successful if you can manage a tie. When you go out to play a game against the competing team, and even before the game you say, “We will be successful if we can manage a draw or a tie,” what does that tell about your perception of yourself vis-à-vis the enemy?
You perceive yourself to be weak and therefore you are saying, “For me, a draw will be a victory because I am weak.” That’s how Dominique opens here, “You’re wrong about Austen, Mr. Roark. He’s very successful. In his profession and mine you’re successful if it leaves you untouched.”
She is almost admiring the great power that the profession has over the person. She is saying, “Profession, O it is such an impactful thing, it is such a tremendous force. It will necessarily have an impact over you. And if you can just manage to stay untouched, you are successful.”
This is not what Roark will say.
Roark will say, “I am already untouched, and I have no susceptibility. I am not going to be vulnerable to touch, suddenly. My success does not lie in remaining untouched, because remaining untouched is a given. I am not going to become suddenly vulnerable. It is a given – I am untouched. Now let me express myself. Now let me express myself.”
If Roark and Dominique both were dancers chancing upon a crowded street, then success for Roark would be to just dance.
Success for Dominique would be to dance and remain untouched by glares, and the jibes, and the taunts, and the curse-words, and the hoots of the commoners.
Do you see the difference in approach?
If Roark were to dance, his delight, his success lies in just dancing to his contentment – “I danced.” If Dominique were to dance, she would say, “If I can remain somehow unperturbed by all the nonsense that the commoners will throw at me, then I am successful.”
So Dominique is afraid, Dominique is very vulnerable, and she expects too much. She does not realise the nature of the world, and therefore expects the impossible from it.
Now hurt by the crowd, Dominique the dancer might say, “I want to hear the worst of the abuses hurled at me.” Roark would say, “You are operating from a point of weakness. Even in choosing the hardest, you are just betraying your weakness. Why don’t you just dance?” Dominique says, “No, I am very hurt. This fellow just called me an unmentionable name. Repeat that, repeat that. Hurt me more.”
That’s Dominique’s standard of success.
“Hurt me more, and if I can take that you are giving me, then I am successful.” Roark says, “Darling, why don’t you just dance?” Dominique says, “No, no, no. That one, there, in the red T-shirt, he was the one who threw that taunt over me. He assaulted me. I want him to assault me again, ten times. And if I can remain still steady, then I am successful.”
Roark says, “Your success lies in just dancing, why are you so concerned with the crowd?” Therefore Roark says here, “Even if the choice that you are making is just the hardest, it is just a display and confession of your weakness. Just do the Real thing.”
In our everyday language,
There is just too much rubbish around, why think and talk of that.
Don’t you have the Real Work at hand?
Is that easier to grasp?
Watch the session video: Be simple, follow the simple Truth || Acharya Prashant, on ‘The Fountainhead’ (2019) The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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