Thursday, 24 December 2009

Holiday Rand

Being surrounded by the happy insanity of my family for the holidays has reminded me of a quote from The Fountainhead: "All love is exception-making." This struck me as one of the most true, and most uncharacteristic (from my very limited experience with Rand) quotes in the book.

I started to wonder what exactly this Randian "exception-making" means. The closest I could come at first was "forgiveness," a term I imagine she recoiled from because of its frequent use in religion (again, based on my so-far very limited reading of her work). But to me, it seems that her concept of making an exception of and for the people one loves is a kind of forgiveness of their faults - and also a forgiveness of one's self for the bend in principle the first half requires. I think that this second half of forgiveness is what makes it Randian - rather than breaking or abandoning personal principle, the forgiveness, the "exception-making," is a conscious, individual judgement on that principle and its worth, compared to the worth of the person in one's heart.

Imagine I, on principle, reject all nail-biters as slaves to a compulsion. But I love you, though you are a nail-biter. My love is exception-making because I have made an exception of you, as an individual, from my cosmic rejection of nail-biters; this is the external half of my exception. I have also made an exception in my principled rejection of nail-biters; this is the internal half.

Roark's love of Gail Wynand is exception-making. Wynand is exceptional as an individual Roark respects, despite Wynand's failures. And Roark - even Roark - has made an exception to his rigid principles to preserve Wynand from his scorn.

This seemed necessary to write out and explain to myself; I'm not sure that it makes a lot of sense. But it seems that especially on the holiday, we're thrown together with a lot of people we love and make exceptions for; and sometimes, many of the proud and stubborn people I know ask themselves why they should tolerate the faults in others. My answer is simply that if love is exception-making, then you must make the exception not just as a charitable act, easily discarded when you get tired of it; true exceptions, the exceptions made by love, are also made to the part of yourself that objects to those flaws. At that point you begin to see the pettiness of the objection in the first place.

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