David Dorsey

December 5, 2000

Post #1237 – 20001205

Because of your final allusion to existentialism, I was disturbed by an otherwise pleasantly superficial reading on NPR’s “Weekend Edition” of a story about a small brown dog. Existentialism stands in grave opposition to the fundamental implication (or inevitable inference) of the plot. In it, identity is void without the content supplied by Others, compounded of Others’ perceptions/observations/imposed meanings. And climactically, it is in the story society’s official regulatory bureaucracy – personified by a Big Dog (in contrast to the small dog seeking identity) – who is repository of essential identity, symbolically represented by a name.

If articulate to a child, overtly, such a reading is harmless, even salutary, since the child would intuitively reject such dependence on society for one’s very being. But left unmentioned, unexplained, as you did, this makes the story frightfully indoctrinating.

[You may ask, “What of the mouse, who ‘knew’ all along/” Mice are potential prey of dogs as predators. Prey and victims ‘know’ their predators and master better than the stronger know themselves.]

Even if you find this reading fanciful, I recommend that you abandon the notion that narrative without ontological ( and hence ethical) implication is ever possible, or, as you suggested, insignificant.

Daniel replies:

I promise that I will, to the best of my ability, do just as you say. So you can turn your attention to other matters awry in our society. So just forget about me, and concentrate on other, better known radio programs received in your tiny wooden cabin. Listen to Ira Glass--he's extremely irresponsible. Or that fascist Garrison Keillor. He needs to be monitored. OK? Peace. I'm going to work on what you said. OK?