I read The Fountain Head by Ayn Rand more than a month ago; it is a 600 page book that explores the philosophy of objectivism. People had initially told me this book really messes with your head; unsurprisingly I got influenced by what people said to me before I read the book and when someone asked me after “How did you find the book?” I said, “It really messed with my head”.
I have always noticed that my first reaction to a question is not my reaction, it’s someone else’s. Maybe that’s why when that person asked me, “How did it mess with your head exactly?” I had nothing to say.
Now, I do.
As defined by Ayn Rand, ‘Objectivism is derived from the principal that human knowledge and values are not created by the thoughts one has but is created by the reality that exists independent of consciousnesses’.
The book revolved around two core characters at extreme ends of the line– Howard Roark and Peter Keating, both these men are architects by profession but with extremely different ways of doing things. Howard Roark is a kind of person who knows what he wants to do; he has a mind of his own, an embodiment of objectivity not influenced by anyone or anything. He wants to design buildings with his own independent artistic vision and no client can convince him otherwise. Peter Keating on the other hand wants to achieve success defined by power, money and fame; no matter how, whether it’s by sucking up to his clients or back stabbing his colleagues or fiercely stomping on his senior partners to climb that success ladder. He is a kind of person who gets easily influenced by anything that moves and goes with the flow with no real thoughts of his own. He does get to the top of his ladder.
But he doesn’t stay there too long. The book does have a happy ending with the fame fall of Keating and with the triumph of Roark who gets the opportunity to design a monumental skyscraper in the heart of the city and who also gets to win the girl of his dreams in the process. But as someone said, things that are worth having don’t come easy and victory didn’t come easy for Roark either; I can safely say that, having read through the pain and suffering he had to endure for 600 pages.
The Fountain head was written in 1943, well it was published then, Ayn started writing it in 1929. But that was what I loved about the book, it was written back then, when the concept of objectivism had just started getting its due attention; although this book is popular now more than ever. Why it is more popular now is because objectivism is a concept that just cannot possibly exist in this day. It is merely an idea that everyone knows exists out there but no one can develop it further on their own.
I recently met a guy at a house party and we had a very stimulating conversation, it felt enlivening, the ability to connect with that one particular someone and having long uninterrupted intimate tête-à-tête about things that actually make sense as opposed to talking to a bunch of ‘friends’ about your summer vacation plans.
Before we parted ways, I asked him, “hey are u on face book?” and he replied “Nope, I don’t believe in social media”.
I thought “Weirdo!!” and ran.
With the social media up and rising, people just cannot be objective today. It is absolutely impossible to not get influenced by what someone writes or what someone says, whether you read the Economic times daily or you follow someone on twitter or you read a link posted by someone on face book. People have lost the ability to think for themselves; no you cannot come up with a grand idea in a matter of seconds and definitely not with being interrupted by constant bbm’s and status updates and continuous tweets because you do tend to read people’s status updates, their tweets and formulate your ‘own’ opinion based on it. How can you then develop your own independent style of thinking? Sit in a locked room? Immerse yourself into your work? Concentrate. Don’t let distractions get to you? We are out there exposed; exposed to 500+ people, 500+ random people that we talk to about, actually about absolutely nothing. All of these people are doing nothing but providing you with distraction. How can you become an independent thinker without listening to your one inner voice? And how can you hear yourself when you are multi tasking and listening to the voices of 500 different others?
But the worst part is not that we can’t think for ourselves, but rather that people can’t make out the difference anyway. They don’t know if their thoughts are actually their own or that of that one random person they bumped across in the mall the other day. In today’s society, our minds are in fact nothing but a blend of everyone else’s thoughts.
One or two of you are probably reading this and thinking how absolutely true all of this is. Now you are going to go off and deactivate your face book account, shut down your twitter account and are going to start thinking deeply and profoundly concentrating on work (yea right). Most of you, will deep down know this makes complete sense but will do absolutely nothing about it.
Bottom line being, what you just read now influenced you and I don’t blame you, because the book influenced me to write this in the first place. The only independent & objective part I added to it was the comparison of the fictional world Ayn Rand created post the great depression era to the reality era we live in now, subject to the depression created by our social media.