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Three Favorite Ayn Rand Passages

I introduced this post on Facebook with the following comment:

After yesterday's posting of that graphic image featuring one of Rand's most sublime passages, I got to thinking of other passages in Rand's fiction that were among my favorites. And given that this is Women's History Month, I'd like to highlight these poignant and thought-provoking passages from a woman novelist and philosopher whose work has endured.

I recently shared this graphic, which included one of my three favorite passages from Ayn Rand's fiction. Yes, there are many other passages, but these three have stood out for me. The first is contained in the graphic below (a passage from Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged):

RandSparkSmaller.jpg

But there are two other passages, both from The Fountainhead, that have always resonated with me. The first---for obvious reasons, given that I am a proud New Yorker---was quoted in one of the installments of my annual WTC Remembrance Series, as a paean to the New York City skyline:

"Is it beauty and genius people want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see this city from my window---no, I don't feel how small I am---but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would like to throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body."

But perhaps one of the most meaningful passages in that novel comes at the moment that Howard Roark stands before a jury of his peers to give his defense and summation at the end of the Cortlandt Homes trial. I quote it in the final pages of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical; here is how I contextualize the passage:

I close this chapter---and this book---with one final, lengthy passage written by Ayn Rand, the novelist and philosopher. It is from The Fountainhead. It portrays, in a single instant of time, the Randian ideal of the human community. On trial for destroying a public housing project, Howard Roark takes the oath. As he prepares for his self-defense, Roark stands before his peers:
He stood by the steps of the witness stand. The audience looked at him. They felt he had no chance. They could drop the nameless resentment, the sense of insecurity which he aroused in most people. And so, for the first time, they could see him as he was: a man totally innocent of fear. The fear of which they thought was not the normal kind, not a response to a tangible danger, but the chronic, unconfessed fear in which they all lived. They remembered the misery of the moments when, in loneliness, a man thinks of the bright words he could have said, but had not found, and hates those who robbed him of his courage. The misery of knowing how strong and able one is in one’s own mind, the radiant picture never to be made real. Dreams? Self-delusion? Or a murdered reality, unborn, killed by that corroding emotion without name---fear---need---dependence---hatred?
Roark stood before them as each man stands in the innocence of his own mind. But Roark stood like that before a hostile crowd---and they knew suddenly that no hatred was possible to him. For the flash of an instant, they grasped the manner of his consciousness. Each asked himself: do I need anyone’s approval?---does it matter?---am I tied? And for that instant, each man was free---free enough to feel benevolence for every other man in the room. (678-79)
Ultimately, it is this exalted moment of human benevolence that Rand's project seeks to universalize.

These are just a few of my favorite passages from the work of a woman who has been both worshiped by some and savagely attacked by others. In the end, what endures most in her work is the uplift and inspiration that one gleans from passages such as these.