Getting to Know Russell Kirk (2015)

At the beginning of his Histories, Herodotus notes that a normal person enjoys 26,250 days in his or her life, no day ever exactly like another.  I’m not quite sure I want to count how many days I have left, assuming I could even know such a thing. It’s certainly very wise of the Good Lord not to let us know such things.

Still, as I think about my own days, some wisely spent, others squandered, I have only a few serious regrets.

One of my two most important—at least as it hovers over my being—is that I never actually met Dr. Russell Amos Augustine Kirk in person.  I had the opportunity several times, but I never took advantage of these.  There are lots of reasons why this happened (or, as the case really was, failed to happen), but they really all came down to the same thing—I took too much for granted while in my 20s.  I seemed invulnerable as did those I loved and admired.  As one of my other heroes, Neil Peart, once wrote, “We’re only immortal for a very short time.”  My immortality seemed rather assured as did that of those whom I respected.  Strange considering my own father died when I was only two months old.  Yet, that happened before I was conscious of the world, and the whole story of his death had much more mythical significance than real influence.

Life has a funny way of teaching us each the lessons we so painfully need to learn, and I was rather shocked in the summer of 1994 when I heard that Russell Kirk had passed away.  I was only 26, but I knew I had missed my chance to meet the great man, a man I had studied intensely for about six years at that point.  

My own upbringing in a Goldwater household was rather ecumenical, at least toward things of imagination and what might generally be called of or on “the right.”  I never had a leftist/liberal phase, as liberals, right or wrong, always struck me as somewhat totalitarian in views as well as personality.  As a child and young man encouraged by my mom, I read everything I could get my hands on, and Kirk was just as important in the big scheme of things as, say, Hayek was.  I wasn’t desirous of being only an Austrian or only a paleo or a libertarian or whatever the divisions were in those days.  I just wanted to read everything that seemed interesting.

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