Sunday, May 15, 2011

notes on a dead horse or two

More than ever, I believe The Fountainhead, to be a dangerous book. This may worry a point already mulled over here, but one cannot just pass-off this book's implicit assertion that mass destruction is justified in the name of "higher values" whose substance supposedly overrides the need to respect and protect human life. It is only irrational romanticism and literary convenience that Rand softens Roark's destruction with an empty structure.  Roark is the hero of all those ruggedly individualist libertarians whose opinions sound as oddly uniform as Comuntist Party USA position paper, but shed of the that odious veil, he's pretty much the prototype of the perplexed goons and gangsters whose lives are committed to making the world notice them by the most miserable means available. 

I've little problem with "enlightened self interest", a general concept where one pursues their own agenda with it in mind that their goal is not just to fulfil their own wants and needs but also benefit others in doing so. One "does well by doing good" when they realize that their rights are coherent and effectively applicable in larger social and cultural contexts. 

Rand lops off the "enlightened" part and effectively tries to make an intellectual defense for adults, males for the most part, to act like three years olds and essentially demand that the world bow to their self-defined genius and all the pulverizing engineering it takes for said genius to be foisted on the community. It's a childish view, the mewling of King Baby, and it is, frankly, solipsistic to a degree that approaches a species of mental illness. 
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The existence of God can neither be proven nor proven in absolute terms, and is that belief in either proposition requires an act of faith, faith being a firm belief in something for which there is no proof . The acts of faith, in William James' estimation in his writing in Varieties of Religious Experience, is the relevant quality to watch; if the belief and the dictates the faith espouse result in helping its membership adjust, adapt and find purpose in a world that subjects them to all sorts of catastrophies and seeming cruelties, then that is reason enough . The existence or non-existence of God comes out of the equation: we look at the results of the faith, and see how it's contributed to the General Good; the description and standard can apply to believer and atheist alike.
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Noted pop musicians in twelve step meetings often seem bursting at the seams to tell other members what it is they do and what their latest projects are. It's a testimony to most of them that they contain the impulse to brag and speak in a general way. Bill Wilson had the same dilemma, in terms of keeping his vanity in check, and wrote about in in both the book Alcoholics Anonymous and The Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions. It was a fitting thing for me to read that the man who warned against being the AA big shot had to live up to his own advice.

Eric Clapton's celebrity doubtlessly shields him from any blow back concerning his well publicized battles with booze and the needle , mostly because the public is quick to forgive those who've gone astray but who have gone to well-publicized lengths to clean up their side of the street. We see the same thing happening with Robert Downey, a repeat screw up and jailbird who a few years ago just made it a point to work as much as he could, prove himself reliable, bondable, professional. It paid off, as he more or less owned last summer's box office. In their cases, celebrity might work as a sufficient substitute for the lack of anonymity, but it comes down, again, to whether the famed addict or alkie has willingness to change their lives. Talent figures into it as well; fans just want Clapton to play blues guitar and prefer to see Downey peform well in good roles, and are willing to suspend their misgivings over their bad habits provided the entertainers do just that, entertain.







1 comment:

  1. George Putnam, Jr.6:45 AM PDT

    I for one am sick of it, sick of ALL of it: the treacherous eyebrow-cock, the gratuitous gulp, the bum wad on the hard line, the soggy bundle of booshwa behind the ex-burger shack; cheese, geeze and gooseflesh, a day late and a dollar snort, wet noses against your wingtips on Meade Avenue, Hypno-Sexism and robot cowboys telling you that mutton piss is sheep champagne...

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