Just one more day of house clearing and the cleaning begins. Then we close on the sale of the house. It’s been a long journey. Almost like training for a big race. Every day there has been a workout to do. Lifting dozens of boxes out to the car and loading them back into the new house. Tromping up and down stairs. Throwing away tons of unneeded paper, and passing books along to any number of organizations.
I did stumble on my copy of The Fountainhead, the book by Ayn Rand that has garnered recent attention thanks to dedicated followers such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) whose political philosophy is a confusing mix of conservative Catholicism and Ayn Rand self-determinism. In other words, he pretends to care about everybody but doesn’t seem to actually give a shit about anybody that isn’t either rich, Republican or Catholic.
I read The Fountainhead when I was a determined young man. I was taking a year or two off career matters to train and run full time. I wanted to see how good I could get if I dedicated myself to running. So I worked in a running store, managed a fitness complex and ran as much as I could. There were weeks of 80-90 miles, and in 1984 I raced 24 times and won quite a few of those races. I have no regrets about that because it was my one chance in life to race at that level.
Once it was done after three years of pumping myself up to run all the time, I decided to back off and give more time over to my new family. A couple years into my new life as a married man with children, I turned to my mother and lamented a bit that perhaps I’d been selfish doing all that running. “I don’t think so,” she replied. “You burned with intensity.”
The same could be said of my writing and my painting. I wrote a book titled Admissions during my 20s, and so much that I wrote in that book has come true over time. I predicted the rise of a conservative-driven media channel on the order of Fox News. I predicted a conservative political movement I called The Mandate that took over AM radio to make its voice known across America.
But I knew nothing about publishing a book in those days and so it still resides on a Powerbook 540C computer and a set of floppy disks to which I transcribed longhand legal pads because that’s what I used to write the book while commuting by train to Chicago in the very early 80s.
I’ve decided to bring that book to life. Because as noted, so much of it has come true. I even predicted the creation of a university funded strictly by tourism and kitsch entertainment. And sure enough, the Disney corporation created something along those lines.
The one thing that I predicted that has not come true is the invention of car engines driven by magnetism and metal coils within the car frame. You’d stop to remagnetize your vehicle every 500 miles or so. I still think it’s a helluva an idea. But I’m an art major, not an industrial engineer. So it will likely never come to fruition. It will have to be left an attractive thought.
So while I transcribe that book and finish a couple more, I’ve been thinking back on what has been accomplished so far. Over the course of a lifetime, I’ve produced and sold more than 2000 pieces of art and have published more than 5000 articles as well as two books and many blogs. This is the stuff I burn to do. Every day.
I still run and ride, but with a bit more flexibility than in days past. Because I still recall the theme of The Fountainhead, which tracked the life of an uncompromising soul who floated from architecture and sculpture to work breaking rocks in a quarry. Or something like that.
See, I’ve lived that type of uncompromising dichotomy, and have learned a few things from it. But rather than turning me into an uncompromising conservative, Ayn Rand helped me realize that compassion and forgiveness should play in your life.
But even our selfish pursuits can contribute to our personal growth. A coach once told me that all my running––and the perseverance it required––was preparation for the role I’d need to play in life as caregiver to a wife with cancer. He was right.
Now that same coach that I’ve known for more than 40 years is in a fight for life with lung cancer. He has conducted himself with such character and fortitude it is inspiring to realize that he is living according to his own words, and his own rules. God Bless you Trent Richards.
Because he has always known that life is a series of choices. Sometimes you must accept the path life gives you and make the best of it.
If you’ve ever been running in a pair of new shoes and come upon a place in the path where there is no way around a big patch of mud ahead, you know the feeling. Suc it up and run through it. Sometimes you have to accept that your new shoes will no longer be so pretty. They’ll still work even if they look dirty.
Hayseed with heart
That’s my life’s philosphy in a nutshell. I’m still a hayseed at heart that has learned a little sophistication. I’ve read books on the Philosophy of Existentialism and No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre, and accept the grim reality that life sometimes does feel like a dead end. I’ve been through bouts of depression and valleys of anxiety, and learned that trusting yourself can get you through. And trusting others too. And trusting there is even more than that out there. So I believe in both the human and the Holy Spirit, in my fashion.
Thus I don’t abide by the philosophy that Ayn Rand has some sort of special insight into the human spirit. And take notice how I’ve combined the two from the previous paragraph. Men like Paul Ryan seem to have completely lost the capacity to meld compassion and determination. Their compassion stands in raw separation from their political and religious ideology.
These were exactly the types of people Jesus tried to warn us about when he called the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law a “brood of vipers” and “hypocrites.” They cannot get over the stumbling blocks of their own self-determined view that scripture and politics should serve their own needs. In the same way, The Fountainhead serves political purposes by taking a literal view of how self-determination should be used to dominate the business world and society. It is an immature and tragically selfish viewpoint. And extremely popular because it makes people feel like big shots.
There are far more of these selfish bastards lurking out there in the world than we’d like to admit. And while I’m not perfect by any means, I’ve at least made my choices by having taken a hard look at what really matters. And I’ve determined that caring for other people is even more important than caring about yourself. If that makes me a bleeding heart liberal, then so be it. I will happily die that way someday.
That does not mean I won’t challenge people or their thinking, or compete to win in those areas. That is also human nature that models the likes of Jesus Christ, who never met a challenge to which he did not respond. That’s the difference, you see. Ayn Rand’s character ran off to pound rocks when he did not get his way in the world. We’ve seen a lot of that lately in the world too.
I’ll take my lumps and admit my faults, but I haven’t let childish competitiveness of the brand advocated by Ayn Rand dominate my thinking. Nor have I let the limitations of literalistic biblical interpretation dominate my world or religious viewpoints.
The world is better than that if we work to keep love at the heart of it.