Sick Dogs and Ayn Rand’s Fiction

 Posted by on 14 June 2004 at 3:44 pm  Uncategorized
Jun 142004

I spent the morning at the vet again, thanks to my lovely dog Kate. Yesterday, she rather uncharacteristically refused to eat and even vomited twice. Last night, she looked really miserably ill. This morning, she was still uninterested in food, although her temperature was normal. Such stomach distress is not unheard of for Kate, since she occasionally makes herself ill by eating horse manure, lizards, and other doggie delights. However, she hasn’t eaten anything but regular food for the past three weeks, since she’s only allowed outside on leash due to her fracture. Also, she’s been on antibiotics for the past 10 days due to worries about infection after she pulled out her stitches. Given those unusual circumstances, a visit to the vet seemed warranted.

Kate’s vet, Dr. Taylor, suspected that her stomach was being upset by the antibiotics. Oddly though, her blood tests showed a substantially elevated white blood cell count, despite those antibiotics and no visible signs of infection. At the time of her fracture three weeks ago, a similarly elevated white blood cell count caused Dr. Taylor to suspect bone cancer, but that was ruled out through biopsies taken during the surgery. So the source remains hidden, although the most likely candidate is the substantial maceration of her muscle tissue from the fracture. (Diagnosis in medicine is a wonderfully rich source of real-world applications of epistemology.) Dr. Taylor prescribed a medication to soothe Kate’s stomach, as well as a different course of antibiotics. (The first type just might not work against the type of bacteria she’s fighting.) For now, we just have to monitor her, then take her in for a re-check sometime next week.

Oh, and here’s an amusing bit. Her potassium levels were somewhat low, so we need to feed her a banana a day for a few days. Yes, she will eat it; she’s just that kind of doggie.

In any case, I managed to read the whole of Anthem while waiting for various test results — and that completes my re-reading of all of Ayn Rand’s novels. I enjoyed The Fountainhead immensely this time around, far more so than any of the others. The psychological drama was particularly riveting, even compared with the philosophical mystery of Atlas Shrugged. (My reactions to the novels tend to vary somewhat from one reading to another in response to the particulars of my life at the time. My strongly positive response, however, is constant.)

In light of all my reading on communism, the story of We The Living was much more real and vivid to me than in past readings. Perhaps most striking was the rich meaning I could now see in this passage from the foreword:

To those who might wonder whether the conditions of existence in Soviet Russia have changed in any essential respect since 1925, I will make a suggestion: take a look through the files of the newspapers. If you do, you will observe the following pattern: first, you will read glowing reports about the happiness, the prosperity, the industrial development, the progress and the power of the Soviet Union, and that any statements to the contrary are the lies of prejudiced reactionaries; then, about five years later, you will read admissions that things were pretty miserable in the Soviet Union five years ago, just about as bad as the prejudiced reactionaries had claimed, but now the problems are solved and the Soviet Union is a land of happiness, prosperity, industrial development, progress and power; about five years later, you will read that Trotsky (or Zinoviev or Kamenev or Litvinov or the “kulaks” or the foreign imperialists) had caused the miserable state of things five years ago, but now Stalin has purged them all and the Soviet Union has surpassed the decadent West in happiness, prosperity, industrial development, etc.; five years later, you will read that Stalin was a monster who had crushed the progress of the Soviet Union, but now it is a land of happiness, prosperity, artistic freedom, educational perfection and scientific superiority over the whole world. How many of such five-year plans will you need before you begin to understand? That depends on your intellectual honesty and your power of abstraction. But what about the Soviet possession of the atom bomb? Read the accounts of the trials of the scientists who were Soviet spies in England, Canada and the United States. But how can we explain the “Sputnik”? Read the story of “Project X” in Atlas Shrugged.

My vague and abstract understanding of that passage has vanished into the night. In its place, I find the bright light of substantial knowledge of the concrete details of all the people and events mentioned. It’s a delightfully clear example of the power of the spiral of knowledge.

Oh, and just a few days ago, I ordered the new anthology of essays from ARI-affiliated scholars on the book entitled Essays on Ayn Rand’s We The Living. I’ve heard nothing but high praise for it so far, so I’m very excited to read it.

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