The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 2: The Boy on the Bicycle

Previous: Chapter 1: The Courage to Face a Lifetime

I was the boy on the bicycle.

Perhaps you were, too. Perhaps you, too, did something like ride your bicycle down a forgotten trail through the hills of Pennsylvania, wondering if you would find joy and reason and meaning in life. Perhaps you, too, embraced the solitude of your own companionship, treasuring each quiet hour of reflection in a noisy world, loving the very fact of being alone and alive, feeling an unbearable tenderness for the sight of this beautiful earth, breathing in the never-to-be-repeated singularity of your own personhood like great gulps of free fresh air, hungering for all the outstretched possibilities of what you might become — yet daunted by the enormity of the gap between your present and your future, and therefore seeking signposts on the road to a life you could in the end look back upon with the pride and honor of a job well done.

Perhaps in your seeking along that lonely path you came upon a novel entitled The Fountainhead. For a few days or weeks or months, it changed everything. Then you read the book again, perhaps a few times — challenged in your thinking, stirred in your emotions, deflected onto a new course, imbued with an incandescent fire, transported by a comprehensive vision of life as it might be and ought to be.

Perhaps, after the blinding flash of your first encounter with The Fountainhead had mellowed to the warm glow of enhanced awareness, new questions and challenges arose. Is this vision real? Can it be achieved in a world where joy and reason and meaning seem all too rare and elusive? Can I integrate these insights into my own life without submerging my individuality under a flood of ideas and abstractions that, however compelling, were created by someone else? Is Ayn Rand's philosophy not only an intellectual tradition of philosophical analysis and political advocacy, but also a wisdom tradition of spiritual maturity and personal enlightenment?

I, too, have asked these questions and faced these challenges. After more than thirty years of reflecting on The Fountainhead, I have gained some hard-won wisdom regarding the search for joy and reason and meaning in life. I have tried my best to distill and condense that wisdom into this short book.

That I have done so through a set of variations on a theme from The Fountainhead no more makes me a spokesman for Ayn Rand than the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini made Rachmaninoff a spokesman for his Italian predecessor. The theme here is Rand's, but the voice in the variations is my own — a salute to Rand across the chasm of time.

Yet the model for this work is not the orchestral extravagance and lush harmonies of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody but the single instrument and contrapuntal austerity of Bach's Goldberg Variations. This two-part introduction, a paean to joy and reason and meaning, is the songful aria that establishes the theme. In what follows, I explore many variations on that theme; yet, as with Bach, the variations are built not on the melody of the sarabande but on the prosaic, unnoticed, but foundational bass line — with canons and fugues and arabesques sometimes taking the music far from the original notes. After these harmonic excursions, the aria reappears in several restatements of the theme: a hymn to love for existence, the light within, and the meaning of life in what I call the Tao of Roark.

I have worked to maintain a light touch at the keyboard, serious but not preachy, because it is not my place to tell you what you "should" or "ought" to think or choose or do or feel. I have presented the Tao of Roark in the first person to make it clear that these are my thoughts, and that I would not dare to replace your own processes of observing, experiencing, thinking, and reflecting. Indeed, at root, I have written this book almost entirely for myself: to determine how I want to live my life, to clarify for myself what I mean by a philosophy for living on earth, to select the values that I deem most important, to enlighten myself about what really matters in life, to inspire myself to reach the highest form of excellence, to create and enjoy something beautiful and uplifting in a world that is too often ugly and small.

Despite the fact that this book is something private and precious and intimately personal, I have chosen to make it public in the hope that you, too, will find some wisdom here for yourself.

Next: Chapter 3: Joy

Peter Saint-Andre > Writings > The Tao of Roark