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November 11, 2017

Our Little Dante Crosses the Rainbow Bridge

After the loss of two of my dearest friends over the last five months, Murray Franck and Michael Southern, I didn't think I had much of a heart left to break.

It turns out my heart is much larger with an almost infinite capacity to love---and to grieve. This morning, we lost our little Dante (April 29, 2000 - November 11, 2017). He had a life full of love, fun, food, travel, and TV. But this morning, the Rainbow Bridge beckoned.

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Only folks who have had pets will understand the grief of losing a beloved member of the family, especially one who has brought such joy to our lives. We will miss him and love him, and keep him in our memories eternally. I love you, my little Dante.


Postscript (13 November 2017): I wanted to thank everybody who has responded to me privately and publicly (on Facebook) during a period of immense personal grief. I have no doubt that some of this grief is cumulative, given recent losses in my life, as noted above. But only pet people understand the uniqueness of the relationship between a person and a pet.

That unique character was noted by psychologist Nathaniel Branden back in the 1960s, who enunciated what he called the "Muttnik principle" in his exploration of the nature of psychological visibility. His remarks were specifically about the relationship he enjoyed with his dog Muttnik, but the principle is just as applicable to cats and other pets, as it is to dogs, despite the differences that one sees among the species.

I've been fortunate enough to be both a "cat person" and a "dog person"; my first experiences with pets were as a child with both cats (Peppers) and dogs (Timmy), and later, with our cat Buttons (1969-1987), who lived to the ripe old age of 18, and who was best friends with my brother and sister-in-law's dog, Shannon. Buttons was followed, famously on Notablog, by our dog Blondie, who passed away in 2006, at the age of 16.

Dante lived for 17-and-a-half years, and came to us through a dear friend not too long after Blondie's death. When he arrived here, he immediately asserted himself as King of the Castle, as Ralph Kramden would say [YouTube link]. In many ways, he was the most intelligent pet I've ever known. He'd watch television with remarkable intensity, as if he were absorbing the unfolding plot of a story. If an image came on the tube that he didn't like or some dissonant chords were heard in the background of a film score, indicating a coming doom, he'd give definition to the phrase "Scaredy Cat," and high-tail it outta here. He provided more laughs, more love, and more memories than we'd thought possible, especially after the difficulty of losing our beloved dog Blondie. Blondie had sat on my lap during the authorship of my entire "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy"---so much so that she was among those to whom I dedicated the last book of my trilogy, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism.

It is often said that there are essential differences between dogs and cats; an old quip reminds us that dogs have families, while cats have staff. But despite their apparent species-defined differences, each offers us something of great value, as author William Jordan discusses in his book, A Cat Named Darwin: How a Stray Cat Changed a Man into a Human Being.

In a sense, Dante picked up right where Blondie had left off. But this was not a simple replacement; each offered something unique in terms of their individual personalities and species-distinct behavior. Each was demanding, but the ways in which they manifested that characteristic were as different as night and day; where Blondie would jump and bark and lick you to death, Dante would simply continue to meow until he was noticed, and if he was not noticed, he'd make his presence known immediately. Typing on my laptop and therefore not focused specifically on Dante? Not acceptable, as he'd walk across the keys demanding attention. Eating? Not acceptable, as he'd jump on the table if we didn't at least give him his own seat (his own chair, of course, fully cushioned and on wheels). An Alpha Cat for an Alpha Household. What a perfect match.

And yet today, as I finally drag myself back to the laptop to continue working on my various projects, I find myself typing without Dante by my side or on my keyboard. This is new territory for me. There is an emptiness in this house, and in our hearts, that is hard to communicate. I have found some comfort in the work of Dr. Wallace Sife, a long-time family friend and author of The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies. But the depth of my grief is palpable.

Dante was a special cat; he was on thyroid medication for years, and we'd taken good care of him---definitely giving him much more time on this earth than he would have otherwise enjoyed (thanks to the loving care he received from Dr. Linda Jacobson and her team). It made his swift degeneration over the last few days of his life that much more painful. And yet, while it came at the price of profound shock, King of the Castle that he was, Dante spared us the necessity of having to make any life-and-death decisions on his behalf. Seeing him degenerate and prepare for his own death is too painful to articulate; and yet, there was something dignified in the way that nature took its course.

I will find a way to get through this. Keeping Dante, and all of my beloved pets, alive in my memory, in photos and videos too, remains a comfort. But the emptiness is going to be with me for a long time. And it is not something that is easily filled by just getting another pet, as if they are interchangeable units of the same stock. As with all things, grieving is a process only helped by the passage of time.

Once again, my deepest appreciation to all of those who have expressed their condolences to me.

Much love from Brooklyn, New York, to all of you,
Chris

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November 07, 2017

Russian Radical 2.0: Skeen Review and Forthcoming JARS Essay

I previously mentioned here at Notablog that Ilene Skeen had reviewed the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Skeen has now posted a version of that review on the blog "The Moral Case: For and Against." The review, entitled "Objectivism in Context" appears here.

I should mention that my own essay, "Reply to the Critics of Russian Radical 2.0: The Dialectical Rand," will be published in the December 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, along with a companion reply from Roger Bissell, entitled "Reply to the Critics of Russian Radical 2.0: Defining Issues."

My article does not address Skeen's specific review, since it went to press prior to the appearance of the Skeen essay. However, it does address most of the central issues that Skeen raises.

I should mention, in passing, that aside from writing prefaces and introductions to special issues of the journal, I have spent the last twelve years editing essays written by others. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I embrace the role I've played as a founding co-editor of the journal with open arms!

But literally, I have not published a single bona fide scholarly contribution to the journal since the Fall 2005 issue, which included my essay, "The Rand Transcript, Revisited." That essay later became Appendix II of the second edition of Russian Radical. Well, as one can imagine, I really do have a lot to say in the new essay, about the historical and methodological theses of my book on Rand. It is an essay that, in my humble opinion, is a definitive addition to the scholarly literature on Rand, because it not only engages critics of the second edition (including such critics as Wendy McElroy, who wrote a review of the second edition for JARS that appeared in the July 2015 issue; and two critics whose commentary on my work appears in the Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand), but enhances my own historical and methodological interpretive work on Rand with some significant new research.

Having just signed off on the second corrected page proofs of the December 2017 issue, I can tell readers that the year-end edition contains many provocative essays. Watch this space for more information on the forthcoming JARS. And thanks again to Ilene Skeen for adding the review to "The Moral Case" blog!