Thank you very much for your comment. Do you recall the seminar David Kelley gave in Santa Monica shortly after his break with Peikoff? It was my great pleasure and honor to meet you at that time. Because I was in charge of organizing the seminar, David was kind enough to invite me to join in several discussion sessions in which you also participated. In case I neglected to tell you then, let me say it now: I admire you tremendously, and I do regard your book to be an extremely valuable contribution to Objectivism. If the movie prompted people to buy and read your biography (I am sure it did) and then to discover the works of Ayn Rand, then clearly it did serve a worthwhile purpose.
Like Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden is also a human being. I do not share your apparent bitterness toward him. I largely agree with Michael K’s assessment of the Hellen posts. As I understand it, Diana Hsieh was an associate of his for a long time, and he was trying to open her eyes to the mindset of the ARI crowd. In fact, he was being remarkably benevolent—far too benevolent, in my opinion, when she is capable of statements such as “you two have done more damage to the cause of Objectivism than I ever imagined possible.” There would be no Objectivist movement without Nathaniel Branden! He created it! Rand would never have launched it on her own—and Leonard has done nothing but sabotage it (to the best of his very limited ability).
There isn’t much to tell, actually. It’s what Nathaniel did not do that disturbed me. He simply walked away. Everyone else had pretty much gone. It was just the two of us. I walked to the podium and, without really intending to, found myself baring my soul to him. It was totally spontaneous on my part—being quite candid, there were tears in my eyes. He said nothing. No smile. No acknowledgement. Just walked away.
Looking back on it now, I think he was simply being authentic in the way that Fritz Perls has often been described. He looked directly at me, gave me my moment to be vulnerable, but did not feel inclined to reciprocate in any way. He would likely say that he was giving me the respect of not deceiving me about his response. (“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you’re not in this world to live up to mine”—Perls) He was, in other words, being completely reality-oriented.
Nathaniel has often spoken highly of Perls, although he disagrees with the anti-intellectual aspect of the Gestalt school. If he had been doing therapy with me, perhaps he would have tried to help me integrate the internal reality of my own reaction to the coldness of his response. Perhaps he would have said: “Name what you’re experiencing at this moment.” And I would have said: “F__k you, Nathaniel Branden!” And then I would be authentic, too.
The fact is—I was devastated. To hell with Fritz Perls! Would it kill him to have smiled and said “Thank you!” Do we really need to be that “authentic” every moment we’re alive, even it means being cruel to the people around us? I don’t think so. I know that I make an effort to be benevolent and kind, even to strangers who might not particularly appeal to me. If that makes me less “authentic,” then so be it. For myself, knowing that I may have hurt someone when I could easily have avoided it is profoundly disturbing.
But big deal. So he hurt my feelings. I got over it, rather quickly as I recall. And I will continue to admire him. From a healthy distance.
Now. About that damn book we were discussing….