In rereading The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, I was struck by how relevant it is today. At 700+ pages, it can be a slog, but like all great works, its essence remains: that society has subverted the term selflessness and has chipped away at man's ability to think for himself. For when he lives according to the highest and the best within, he is labeled selfish.
Few novels promote independent thought. Popular memoirs/novels, of late, regurgitate and spit back what authors and editors think the shrinking reading public wants. (See USA Today's Forum, by Erica Jong.) When we allow dishonesty (to self and to others) to motivate our actions, we lose a bit of our soul. Committed over a lifetime, these actions create a living hell.
From Shakespeare's Socrates' inspired Hamlet (to thine own self be true), to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (that all men are created equal), to FDR's Four Freedoms (freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear), the Great Thinkers witnessed to man's freedom as his highest ideal.
Who among us is free when we are too stressed to plan our future, too underpaid to champion a cause, too afraid to challenge our boss, too busy to question politics as usual?
"It does not matter that only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of man's proper statureand that the rest will betray it. It is those few that move the world and give life its meaning…. The rest are no concern of mine; it is not me or The Fountainhead that they will betray; it is their own souls" (xiii, Introduction, Penguin Putnam ed.)