Monday, August 17, 2015

Reflections on the Passing of Comrades

Recently, two Objectivist writers passed away: William Parr, and James Kilbourne.  I knew them tangentially, at best. Their passings were noted on Michael Stuart Kelly’s discussion board, Objectivist Living. 

Bill Parr taught statistics at the China European Institute of Business Studies. Mikee (Michael Erickson) found biographical links online and posted them.

On MSK’s OL, I said this: 
So sad... I feel bitter about not knowing that he passed. Just a couple of general reflections on this if I may...   
1.  Bill was teaching statistics at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai and that was really cool. His CV is, indeed, as Mikee said, "impressive": he four-pointed his graduate and post-graduate degrees at SMU, no mean feat. After working at Harris Semiconductor, the University of Tennessee hired him with tenure - hired in 89, tenured from 90 - also an achievement. He had over 50 original papers and a slew of book reviews and et ceteras go along with that.  He had a life of achievement. His death at such an early age is sad, but no one knows how long they have. One Norn spins; one Norn measures; one Norn cuts; even the gods have no control over Fate.   This is not the first time that I wished I had gotten to know someone better before they died. (I lost a manager in an industrial accident...) And that leads to: 
2.  The paradigmatic downside to all this individualism is that lack of social contact.  That is very American.  We are not the only individualist culture in the world. Even Nigeria has them. But I find this in other social spheres as well. Right now, two of my hobbies are numismatics and astronomy, and while they do embrace large populations with attendant varieties of personality, they tend to attract those who do better with empirical concretes and their abstractions, than with they do with actual living people.  
My other hobby is the Texas State Guard here (or here) on my blog. No one is ever left out there alone. Twice in the last three months, I sat with another guardsman who told a personal story. While he and his family dealt with the grief of loss of a parent or a child, the "details" at the funeral home were "taken care of" and not another word was communicated. Someone knew about their situation and someone else responded. No one is ever left alone -- which has a downside, also.
 I do not know where the middle ground is.  Perhaps it must remain Either-Or.

James Kilbourne had been active on SOLO: Sense of Life Objectivists before it diverged into two sites, SOLO-HQ and RoR: Rebirth of Reason. James was proximally responsible for the split.  He posted an open letter about the owner of SOLO, Lindsay Perrigo, outing him as an alcoholic.  (As the site owner and moderator Perrigo allowed the post, if for no other reason than to open the discussion about his apparent mood swings.) Kilbourne was gay. It is not a surprise (and perhaps a cliché) that he shared several of Linz’s passions, including the performances of Mario Lanza.

With a great deal of sadness, I just read the following on a Facebook post by a person named Stoney Stone. This was posted on James's own Facebook wall.
Stone said
RIP James Gregory Kilbourne. News from Jean today that Jim passed away on Wednesday evening...a heart attack. Jim was a major influence on many of my friends and me in our younger years. He made me think. His spirit will live on in our hearts. — with James Gregory Kilbourne.

For those who don't know anything about James, he was one of Barbara Branden's closest friends.
Barbara Branden, on 01 Aug 2006 - 9:43 PM, said:
... James Kilbourne, whom I met eleven years ago on a moonlit terrace in Athens, Greece. A boyfriend once told me a fable that I loved, and I had him tell it again and again. The story was that my friends and I had been born and had lived on Rigel, where we had played, carefree and happy, among the stars. One day, God decided that it was time for us to go to Earth and learn its mysteries. He picked us up in His hands and scattered us over the earth – and from then on, each of us searched always for our lost playmates. In James, I knew almost at once that I had found my playmate from the stars.

Michael Stuart Kelly said: 
He also wrote an article on the old SoloHQ that caused a holy turmoil in online O-Land.Drooling BeastThis article was a catalyst that, from one angle, helped OL come into being. Back then, Barbara said good things about the article and Perigo, one of the site's owners and James's target, reacted with malice and hatred toward her that endures until today, even now that she is gone. Soon after, SoloHQ split into Solo Passion, Rebirth of Reason, and Objectivist Living.
 James was gay, for those who might find value in knowing this. He was open about it, but very low-key as an individual. I had the pleasure of meeting him once. Kat and I visited him with Barbara at his house for dinner. He was charming to the extreme. We even got Kat to listen to some opera.  I communicated with James regularly by email for a while, but eventually we drifted apart.  I always had in the back of my mind to look him up and try to dig further into the delight Barbara found in him. I no longer have that opportunity. The longing remains but James and Barbara now belong to memory. I hope there is an afterlife because I would love to see them playing among the stars and join them.Michael

Then I wrote this:
I saw this yesterday, but was blanking out on it. Another loss.  I remember the storm on SOLO, I did not remember that essay being the start. This is his SOLO (RoR) autobiography:
"Co-founder (1989) of Custom Training Institute (, a training company that applies the concept of knowledge engineering to solve a company's information technology challenges. We are survivors of the recent tech depression. I am a passionate lover of life, liberty, and great music, particularly symphonies and operas. Politically, I am a Washingtonian classical republican liberal with Jeffersonian leanings. I am a defender of the real victim, the overlooked innocent, and the truly heroic."
His articles covered a range, but he clearly shared several interests and perspectives with Lindsay Perigo, which may explain his concern.  James Kilbourne's SOLO (RoR) articles are here:

The first friend I lost was Fred Reenstjerna. Not an Objectivist by any stretch, Fred influenced my intellectual development by challenging me in ways that I never expected. I posted a obituary to Rebirth of Reason here:


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