The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 10: Feeling

Previous: Chapter 9: Action

The power of feeling is my ability to experience the emotional meaning of my thoughts, choices, and actions.

Yes or no, for me or against me, positive or negative, life-enhancing or life-threatening, pleasant or painful, a benefit or a cost, a source of joy or of suffering — at root my capacity to feel is a unique source of feedback about the way I live my life. And, because my life is irreducibly individual, I can find that awareness only through my own emotions. The knowledge I gain comes from how I use my power to think, the direction I take comes from how I use my power to choose, and the value I create comes from how I use my power to act. Those achievements have a direct effect on how well I succeed at the task of human living, which I measure fundamentally by my enjoyment of life. Thus joy is not a mere surface phenomenon, but something deep and serious: it is the benefit that all my efforts go to pay for, the cash value of honoring my true interests in thought and choice and action.

Yet holding joy as an ideal does not mean that I refuse to acknowledge painful facts or experiences. Life can hurt, and the reality of loss is all too often with me. The capacity for joy is but the most positive realization of my capacity for feeling and emotion, and I must nurture that more fundamental capacity if I am to find the greatest joy in life. The actions and creations that I love most exhibit an openness to emotional experience. At its best, that experience is positive; but being open to experience means not shrinking from the negative, either.

Further, my emotions are not only positive or negative, on or off, white or black; they can be tremendously subtle. Consider the differences of intensity, depth, and energy between being calm or serene, cheerful or exuberant, satisfied or fulfilled, involved or engaged, interested or passionate, happy or ecstatic. Because emotions are a form of awareness, attending to these subtle differences can create a profusion of color in my life.

Finally, not all of those colors need to be fiery and intense. Although Rand's novels celebrate the highest passions, they also underline the importance of less ardent emotions: the sense of family that Roark and Henry Cameron feel in performing a daily routine together; the tenderness of Roark silently placing his hand on the shoulder of the night watchman at Cortlandt Homes; the firm sympathy and complete understanding that Roark extends to Steven Mallory when he needs it most; the bonds of trust, good will, and brotherhood that Roark and Mike Donnigan feel for each other; the fact that the employees in Roark's architecture office experience him as warm, approachable, and deeply human; the young, kind, friendly laughter that comes from Roark when he is talking with Peter Keating about their chosen profession; the natural joy and mutual confidence that Mallory, Donnigan, and Roark experience when they are together; the quiet satisfaction that Roark feels about having designed a building (even if, like his Stoddard Temple, it is disfigured beyond recognition).

Next: Chapter 11: Harmony

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