Tag: The Transcendentals

Optimism for Me and Other Slow Learners

The Good, the True, and Beautiful Unfold Slowly for Some of Us, but They Do Unfold

I’m not looking to join the old Tropic Thunder velitation, but about 20 years ago I volunteered to sell Tootsie Rolls to help people with mental disabilities. I figured it was an easy way to do some good, so I stood on the steps of my Catholic church as people came out of Mass and enthused, “Help the retards! Buy a Tootsie Roll. Only a buck. Help the retards!”

The next day, I thought about the funny look on parishioners’ faces. I asked my law partner: “Your sister has Down’s Syndrome. Is it offensive to refer to such people as ‘retards’? Because I was at church yesterday . . .”.

He stared (okay, glared) at me and said, yes, it was highly offensive and that I’d probably cost the firm a dozen clients. He also said something to imply that I was a slow learner.


It’s not the first time I felt like a slow learner. I’d been at politically-correct institutions of higher learning for five years before I learned that off-color and politically-incorrect comedic music isn’t proper casual listening with people you’ve just met.

There’s also a litany of weightier things that I haven’t penetrated facilely. I read Hayek’s Road to Serfdom at age 16, but am still learning its lessons. I started reading Chesterton at age 20 and even edited Gilbert Magazine for a short spell, but I’m still a bit cloudy on the whole distributism thing. At age 24, I remember sitting down on a stairwell bench at Notre Dame Law School to ponder the idea that actual sin hinders spiritual development (something not emphasized in my Lutheran upbringing—Luther said my soul is snow-covered dung—but still one that I should’ve … Read the rest