Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

Titanic Trio
by Lindsay Perigo

One memorable night, not so long ago, I imbibed some high-octane emotional fuel, sitting down with like-minded people to watch television documentaries on three giants, each a genius in his own field - author/philosopher Ayn Rand, singer Mario Lanza & architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The three had a great deal in common.

Each had an acute, socially incorrect awareness of his own stature. Ayn Rand proclaimed that she was "fighting the cultural tradition of two thousand five hundred years." Mario Lanza said, "I am not the second Caruso - I am the first Lanza." Frank Lloyd Wright affirmed, "I am the greatest architect that ever lived."

Each was an individualist - Rand described individualism as her religion, her mania, her fanaticism; Lanza said, "I am an individualist. Regimentation is a word I hate. I hate the very sound of it, just as I hate everything the word means."

Each was panned by the critics for being unconventional. Each went over the heads of the critics & achieved extraordinary popular success.

Each was the object of envy - architect Philip Johnson said of Wright, "He was a genius. I hated him of course. I hated him for his magnificent ability."

Each had flaws on which the envious seized in an effort to bring them down, but which, though mighty, were of small moment next to his strengths.

Each brought passionate intensity to his work. Rand scolded herself for idling, admonishing herself, "From now on, no thought whatever about yourself, only about your work. You don't exist. You are only a writing engine. Don't stop until you really & honestly know that you cannot go on"; Lanza said, "I sing each word as though it were my last on earth."

Of the three, only Rand had a developed philosophical understanding of individualism, which the other two sorely needed - they were individualists by deed & by implication, but inconsistently. Rand & Wright met, but did not hit it off. Of him, she wrote:

Apparently he was hurt & frightened early in life by the hostility & stupidity of people toward his work. Then here was where the principle of collectivism entered: if people stood in the way of his work, it was people that he had to conquer to break his way through. Therefore, people became a crucial objective - & an enemy. On the one hand, he became extremely concerned to win them, to impress them, to get their recognition. On the other, since they were the enemy, he became convinced that he must deal with them on their own terms - through deceit, lying, flattery & rudeness, high-pressure, etc.. He concluded that the terms applying to his work - honesty, beauty, intelligence, purposeful clarity, courage, directness - all of that could not apply to his dealings with people since they were enemies of his work whom he had to defeat. This is granting a crucial or decisive power to others ... You've accepted the supremacy of the collective & defeated yourself when you accept their terms.

Honesty, beauty, intelligence, purposeful clarity, courage, directness - whatever their flaws, all three brought these qualities to their work, fulfilling Rand's vision of man as a heroic being. In my imagination I like to conjure up the three of them as regular dinner companions, the walls fair shaking from their explosive vitality, talent & eloquence.

In real life, seeing the three of them consecutively on video was an invigorating antidote to a world preoccupied with small-minded muck-raking & tedious trivia.

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