Monday, April 20, 2009

Integrity and perfection

I was all of 19 when I first read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead.

And I had thought I had understood it all -- the philosophy of selfishness as the greatest virtue, the fight of the individual striving for perfection against the whole world steeped in mediocrity, the genius versus the average.

Those were the heady, youthful days of idealism. That was the way to go -- perfection for the sake of perfection.
Now as I look back at my two decades, I cannot help but wonder when pragmatism replaced my quest for perfection. I do not think I understood Fountainhead completely.

At one point, a character who gives Howard Roark a break says, "And what, incidentally, do you think integrity is? The ability not to pick a watch out of your neighbor's pocket? No, it's not as easy as that If that were all, I'd say ninety-five percent of humanity were honest, upright men. Only as you can see, they aren't. Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea."

I think I missed out on that small bit in my first reading all those years ago.

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