The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 47: This White Serenity

Previous: Chapter 46: The Way

In the Tao Te Ching, te is precisely this individuality: self-nature, raw personhood, character, intention, quality, worth, personal actuality or singularity — good or bad, positive or negative, it is what I am. By contrast, tao is human nature, the one path, the great way, a constraining track, an endless course of forward motion, even cosmic unity or potentiality. The tension between individuality and generality, between self-nature and human nature, between actuality and potentiality, between what I am and what I could be, between the way that I can walk and the eternal way, is one of the great themes of life.

In The Fountainhead, the most dramatic conflict is not between Roark and Keating or Toohey or Wynand, but between Roark and Dominique. She is like te — raw, strange, unconstrained, unbridled, singular, Rand herself in a bad mood. He is like tao — self-consistent, unified, integrated, unstoppable, a force of nature. There is a great tension between them, an inexplicable violence that I find unsettling and mystifying unless viewed metaphorically.

Yet at the end of the novel, Roark and Dominique achieve a white serenity that is the sum of all the violence they have known — just as the tension between te and tao, the struggle between myself and the great way, the sometimes difficult dance between my individuality and the underlying track of right living, is harmonized through experience and reflection, action and understanding, ceaselessly applying the life energy of my being, and patiently waiting for knowledge to settle into hard-won wisdom within me.

What is the alignment between te and tao but philosophy, the love of wisdom made real in my life? Such a philosophy is not a dry subject for bookish learning. It is, as Thoreau said in Walden, to solve some of the problems of life, not just theoretically but practically. It is my ongoing relationship with wisdom and insight and right living. It is the one path to being successful as a human being, to living in a way that is consistent with true humanity. Achieving that alignment brings a great calmness of spirit, the simplicity of being at home on this earth, the ability to feel completely natural, a sense of freedom in serenity, the quiet radiance of certainty, of innocence, of peace with the world and of peace within myself. This white serenity is knowing and returning to the source, to the fountainhead of joy and reason and meaning in life, to my own individuality.

Next: Chapter 48: The Tao of Roark

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