“I’m learning about the virtues,” Bimson said.
“The virtues?” Molder replied.
“You know,” said Bimson, “temperance, liberality, justice, fortitude, that sort of thing. I’m taking a short course in ethics.”
“It’s easier to learn about the virtues than to practice them,” Molder said.
“That’s what our instructor told us,” said Bimson. “So each time he introduces a new one, our assignment is to find a way to practice it and report what we did the next time the class meets. He calls it experiential learning.”
“It should make for some interesting assignments when he introduces the vices.”
“The first virtue we studied was temperance,” Bimson said.
“And you found a way to practice it?” Said Molder.
“I found a way to promote it,” Bimson said. “While strolling through the park, I came upon a young woman carrying a bunch of beer steins – there must have been two dozen of them – full and foaming. She was headed for a picnic table while several others watched but made no effort to relieve her of her burden or discourage her from consuming it.”
“And you came to the rescue,” Molder said.
“She was really struggling,” said Bimson, “so I grabbed as many steins as I could and counseled her about the dangers of overindulgence.”
“Did it do any good?”
“Absolutely,” Bimson said. “She burst into tears – you could tell that she was really sorry – and dropped her load. There was beer everywhere. Oh, amidst the tears she made excuses – alcoholics are good at that – wailing about trying to break the Guinness World Record for carrying the most beer steins over 40 meters. I’ve never heard such nonsense.”
“I have,” Molder said.
“Next we studied liberality,” Bimson said, “you know, private charity and public benevolence. To practice charity, I started a fund in aid of underpaid models.”
“I thought models were high earners,” Molder said.
“Not the daughter of a local couple I know. She models in New York and appeared recently on the cover of one of those fashion magazines. I was shocked when I saw it. She’s so pathologically thin and scantily clad it’s obvious that she can’t afford to feed and clothe herself. I called her agent and offered to help.”
“How did that go?”
“At first, not too well,” Bimson said. “But when I offered money, he was very accepting. He said he’d see that she got it and made appropriate use of it.”
“After deducting his appropriate commission, no doubt,” Molder said.
“To practice public benevolence,” said Bimson, “I got rid of a mess in front of the main branch of the local library. Someone – vandals, I suspect – had dumped a pile of scrap metal beside a bust of the founding director. It was insulting. Fortunately, I have a friend who re-cycles junk and I got him to cart it away.”
“I thought there were two pieces of art in front of the library,” Molder said, “the decades old bust and a recently installed metal sculpture.”
“The only one I saw was the bust,” Bimson said. “I guess I was so intent on getting rid of the mess I didn’t notice the other one.”
With that they parted, as Bimson’s class was meeting in a few hours and he wanted to prepare for it. “We’re studying justice,” he said, as he left, “you know, duties and rights.”
A couple of weeks later Molder had to bail him out of jail.
“I was downtown shopping,” Bimson explained, “when I recognized a shady looking character I’d seen on Crime Watchers, you know, the TV spot where they show surveillance footage of crimes and ask for the public’s help in finding the criminals. The camera had caught this guy walking into a convenience store with a baseball bat, terrorizing the clerk and making off with some cash.”
“Is this about practicing Justice?” Molder asked.
“And fortitude,” Bimson said, “you know, courage, bravery, that sort of thing. Well, I suppressed my fears and made a citizen’s arrest. Oh, he resisted, but since he didn’t have his bat, I was able to rough him up a little and hold him until the police arrived.”
“They put you in jail for catching a robber?”
“The police told me there was no surveillance footage. The TV spot featured a re-enactment. They put me in jail for detaining and assaulting an actor.”
“That’s bad news,” Molder said.
“The good news,” said Bimson, “is that thanks to your bailing me out I won’t miss tonight’s ethics class. The next virtue we study is prudence, you know, practical wisdom.”
“Maybe you should have studied that one first,” Molder said.