Monday, January 31, 2005

Ayn Rand At Ground Zero 

Last Saturday morning, Michele, Sarah, and I went up to New York City unexpectedly when Amy called to say she was sick and we became worried (she has the flu and was better by the time we left on Sunday). We stayed at the Embassy Suites Hotel that backs to Ground Zero. Therefore, imagine my surprise at the coincidence that when we got back home I opened the New York Time's book review section to read the following opening paragraph by Clay Risen in his analysis of Sixteen Acres: Rebuilding Ground Zero:

Ayn Rand may be long discredited as a philosopher, but her ideas about architecture are still very much alive. Howard Roark, the protagonist of her objectivist fantasia ''The Fountainhead,'' is the archetypal artist-hero, rendering society's soul in concrete and steel. Since the 1940's, his image has shaped our appreciation of everyone from Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry, defining even the competition to rebuild the World Trade Center site: the struggle between Daniel Libeskind and Larry Silverstein was seen as a veritable "Fountainhead Redux" in which a valiant architect armed only with his dreams takes on a mega-developer.

Perhaps the reference to Ayn Rand should have not been so unexpected. In a piece by Steve Chapman appearing yesterday in the Chicago Tribune he remarks on her influence:

Rand's beliefs have been so widely disseminated and absorbed that we have forgotten where they originated. The truth is that for all she did, they are no longer her ideas. To a large extent, they are ours.

And the connection between Ms. Rand and Ground Zero was something I took note of awhile ago. Please take a look at the poem I wrote shortly after September 11, 2001. (Please keep in mind that I am definitely not a poet but perhaps you can get the idea of what I wanted to convey.)

Two Artists

Two artists with divergent views of the world
Expressed themselves through two different mediums.
But the first hint that they are somehow linked is revealed in their common subjects.
The landscapes, buildings and homes.

In her novel The Fountainhead Ayn Rand elevated man to the level of god.
She spoke of human achievement as unstoppable and unending.
And embodied these ideas in the structures designed by her hero, the architect Howard Roark.

The second clue is that New York City served both as a source of inspiration.

Edward Hopper's paintings seem to push us away.
His scenes of people and their residences are unsettling and uninviting,
And force us to contemplate matters in our own lives that we visit in respectful silence and solitude.

Now we have witnessed the events of September 11.
At my visit to Ground Zero I feel the presence of these two artists.
I see each not more important than the other
I need them both to get me through another day.

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