The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 31: The Architecture of Happiness

Previous: Chapter 30: Yin and Yang

The newspaper caption beneath a picture of Howard Roark standing before the Enright House reads: "Are You Happy, Mr. Superman?" The irony is that Mr. Superman is indeed happy, because making his values real by bringing beautiful buildings into the world is, for Roark, a source of the most exalted enjoyment one could imagine.

This level of joy is not mere fun or pleasure, but a deep alignment between my values and their realization in the world — a form of metaphysical joy or love for existence. Yet is such joy found only in the highest creations of the human spirit? Does joy require in all instances a feeling of man-worship or a heroic sense of life? No. For me, joy is the word that best captures a deeply positive, constructive, humanistic approach to life, work, art, love, family, friendship, and the pursuit of wisdom. This approach to life is built on the assumption that man is born to glory and that happiness is my sacred birthright.

Does honoring the power of thought require me to live up to an explicitly rational view of man and the universe in everything I think and do, or even to forsake passion? No. I live a life of reason when my actions are clear, intelligible, integrated, open to the fundamental human power of understanding myself and the world. But the power of understanding includes perception, imagination, and introspection as well as explicitly conceptual thought. As Jacob Bronowski wrote in his poem The Abacus and the Rose, I must "reject the feud of eye and intellect"; reason's hand, far from being cold and clammy, provides the touch that enables both light and heat, both thought and passion, both deep understanding and deep emotion. Joy and reason go hand in hand.

Finally, can meaning be realized only in the loftiest abstractions or most cosmic goals? Does the search for meaning mandate that I must take an explicitly philosophical approach to every aspect of my life? No. Meaning emerges through an interaction between my choices and my actions, in the self-directed achievement of what I have chosen as good or important. But the good and the important are not mere abstractions: they can be as particular as the smile of a friend, the scent of a flower, the sense of a phrase. Individuality extends that far; and meaning is found not merely in the cosmic and the universal, but also most directly in the concrete, in the particular, in the deeply personal, in what it closest to me: in the activities of my work, in the loving kindness of my family, in the support of my chosen friends, in the fellowship of the communities in which I live and act, in the irreplaceable health of my body, in the character that I build up within me, in my creative pursuits, in the ornaments of life that I enjoy in nature and human culture.

Next: Chapter 32: The Sovereign Individual

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