It’s difficult to discern how best to describe the honor one experiences for having known so many special people without coming across as “humble-bragging.” I’ve had the good fortune to meet some truly amazing intellects and spiritually inspiring people. I’m proud to say some of these luminaries became my friends and mentors, but this by no means suggests I’d ever place myself in the same league as my recently deceased friends Michael Novak and Kate O’Beirne.
Perhaps the first example of humble-bragging occurred in the 12th century. The French philosopher Bernard of Chartres declared his insights were derived from standing on the shoulders of giants—those great thinkers who preceded him and performed much of the intellectual heavy lifting that made his work possible. The philosopher also made the distinction that not only were he and the thinkers of his generation beneficiaries of the view from the historical shoulders of giants but also that he and his peers were mere dwarves by comparison.
Seventeenth-century mathematician, astronomer and physicist Isaac Newton adapted this saying to humbly credit his scientific predecessors’ efforts: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Note that Newton avoided describing himself as a dwarf, so he’s farther removed from the humble-bragging end of the pride spectrum.
There is no arrogance in the declarations of Bernard and Newton, however, as there should be no perception of arrogance in the pride I feel for having known and befriended Michael and Kate. Both of them were razor-sharp thinkers and highly moral individuals. Both represented all that is best of Western civilization since the advent of the Christian faith. Both conducted themselves in a quietly dignified fashion that I and so many other people fortunate enough to travel in their orbits sought to emulate. I was lucky to have known them.
Luck, it’s been written, favors the prepared. Each year, Acton University presents wonderful opportunities for individuals of all walks of life and from every corner of the planet to scramble upon the shoulders of those giants who previously perched upon the shoulders of Michael, Kate and so many others before and after them. Join us and expand your shoulders from which future generations may cast their respective gazes.