The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 1: The Courage to Face a Lifetime

A young man rode his bicycle down a forgotten trail through the hills of Pennsylvania. The brilliant spring sun warmed him like a conscious caress. The leaves and trees and rocks called to him of the hope and promise of life on this earth. Alone in the wilderness, he felt the fresh wonder of an untouched world, where joy and reason and meaning were not only possible but a simple human birthright.

Some wondrous music of exaltation played in his head, the self-contained joy of endless variations spun out by an inexhaustible imagination. Yet in his life so far he had found precious few words or deeds or thoughts among the acts of men to match the meaning of that music. Not the work of man as a degradation of nature, but as an improvement upon given materials that could fulfill the promise of the earth. Not masters and slaves, but a free and independent life of mutual respect and voluntary interaction, without pain or fear or guilt. Not happiness and achievement served to him by others, but the straightforward sight of joy and reason and meaning made real, which would inspire in him the courage to create his own happiness and achievement.

He could give no name to the thing he sought.

He yearned for an exalted experience of life — but he was told that exaltation is reserved for things not of this earth.

He wanted human activity to be a higher step: something noble that he could respect, even something sacred that he could worship — but he was told that the only nobility and the only proper objects of worship exist above and beyond the merely human.

He longed to witness a spark of the divine in his fellow men, and to nurture that spark in himself — but he was told that aspiring to a share in the divine is the height of arrogance.

He hoped to find a way of life animated by a natural reverence for man and this earth — but he was told that the only path to spirituality lies in turning away from this life toward a supposed life after death.

He wished for some sign of what he sought, some guidepost on the road to joy and reason and meaning — but what he sought seemed perpetually just beyond his grasp.

The boy pedalled on through the quiet hills, revelling in the solitude and wondering about his future with the combination of agonized confusion, wistful longing, and passionate expectation that only youth can bring. On the trail ahead he saw a blue hole of open sky where the ridge ended and a valley began. He closed his eyes for a moment, suspending his sense of reality in the strange hope that at the top of the ridge he would find unobstructed sky above and below him.

When he reached the edge he opened his eyes to the most wondrous creation he had ever seen — a valley dotted with small homes that honored the earth and improved upon it by growing organically out of the ground, completing the unplanned beauty of the hills with an even greater beauty of human achievement and fulfillment.

Only after a long while did he notice a man sitting nearby — the man who had made this place real by designing the homes in the valley. Little did the man know that he had given the boy something beyond mere stone and glass: the courage to face a lifetime.

Next: Chapter 2: The Boy on the Bicycle

Peter Saint-Andre > Writings > The Tao of Roark