Roark, Traditions, and Art – Skate across America Day 36

November 8th, 2010



Total Distance for today: 32 miles
Total Distance for Tour: approx. 265 miles
LOCATION: Hyattville, MD (just outside Washington, DC)
STATUS: Back on the road and feeling good!

Back on the Road

I wasn’t sure how a 32 mile skate would feel after taking essentially 2 1/2 weeks off. I did do a little bit of skating in Baltimore, but I was extremely focused on business, to the point of not doing much else. So, I decided to bite the bullet, skate from Baltimore to DC, and see if this skater is still in shape! I quickly noticed that my decision to install a new set of wheels was the best decision I’ve made in some time. I can actually glide between my strokes now! In other words: I can actually skate! That definitely helped me to get reoriented to the thrills and pains of skating. In all, I’m a little more sore than usual, and I can tell I’ve lost a little stamina, but I think I’ll be just fine. BTW, I endured some cruel and unusual punishment during the last 1 1/2 miles of the skate today: There was a hill that can only be described as tall, long, and steep. That was a bit rough after 30 miles of skating, but I made do, and I’m cozy and happy in the Freedom Mobile now! I’m scheduled to speak at the Choice Academy tomorrow, which is a high school in DC, and I’m pretty pumped about that!

Where Traditions Come From

I have A LOT of time to think while I’m skating, and I’ll cover any topic from “I’m tired and sore” to philosophy. Today, I was thinking about a specific character in a specific book. Dillon became rather enthralled by a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountain Head, while we were in Pittsburgh and has taken it upon himself to read it. I’ve had passing interest in Rand and more or less understand her philosophy on an intuitive level. I’ve just never taken it upon myself to read her work. The Fountain Head is one of Rand’s most important literary works, as it captures the individualistic tone of her Objectivist philosophy. I couldn’t help myself yesterday and decided to read the first chapter while Dillon and I waited for the bus in Pittsburgh.


To make a long story short, the main character, Roark, is a brilliant young student of architecture who clashes with his school administration, because he has no use for architectural traditions. He sees most traditions as cobbled together compositions of what has already been done. His opinion is that each building should sprout not from tradition, but from the very ground and purpose out of which it grows. His drawings are surprisingly focused on simplicity, function, and elegance, but they are also radically different than any known style.


I can almost hear his character saying, “What have I to do with tradition, conformity, or duty to what has already been said and done? I exist for my own purposes, and the art I create must flow from my individual passion and vision.” This is not a quote from the book but rather what I can “hear” from Roark’s character. Obviously, Roark’s mindset goes much deeper than just architecture. His character is an appeal to the self-made and self-defined human being. He is not concerned about appearances or opinions. He makes it his duty to do “his work,” and he knows that the beauty of his work will speak for itself – igniting love and hate, alike.


You can say what you will about Roark’s seemingly arrogant and self-affirming philosophy, but he is nothing if not fulfilled in achieving what he sets out to do. The path of one who chooses to define a personal destiny is always difficult, but we must admit, love it or hate it, his art will never cease to affect us. Art is not just found in buildings, poetry, or paintings; some consider the very living of life to be a form of art… Do you decide what your art will look like, or does someone else? Do you affect us, or do you fit neatly into the mold?

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