Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Top Ten Reasons I Love MIT #8

Mens et Manus

I have never met a Latin motto I didn't like - and, since I took Latin for over six years, I've met quite a few of them. Up until recently, my favorite was probably a quote from Virgil: Audentes fortuna iuvat - Fortune favors the bold. Appropriate enough for me, since I enjoy trying new things and getting involved in as much as I can...even if that does mean ending up with a little too much on my plate sometimes.

Actually, for the longest time I was a very shy kid, socially-speaking anyway - Young Paul would probably be shocked to hear what I've been up to these past few years. In grade school, I always had a very tight group of friends, but we ended up all going to different high schools - which meant I basically had to start everything over again as a freshman. My solution? I joined the tennis team.

I know that doesn't sound particularly risky, but for me it was. Not only did I know no one else on the team - the primary reason I joined was to meet people - I was a true beginner when it came to playing tennis competitively. And, as anyone could tell you, I'm not exactly a natural athlete. Still, I stuck with it - and my reward was that I ended up meeting three guys who are now among my very best friends.

Looking back over the past four years, in each year I can easily identify one pivotal event, one risk I took, one choice I made, that utterly changed where I was going with my life. As a sophomore, I volunteered to coordinate a service project and ended up learning what leadership really means. Junior year, I started doing biomedical research and ended up discovering a new passion for science. And my final, senior year, I convinced my principal to let me found a new club dedicated to investigating and debating global issues. All of those look totally unrelated, I know. But, at the same time, each one of them is an equally part of who I am.

The funny thing is that, as I made these choices, I never realized just how significant they would become to me. To put it another way - I never woke up and decided, I'm definitely going to take a huge risk before noon! or went to bed thinking, Wow, I did something really bold today. Everything I did, I did because that was what I wanted to do, because that was what I loved.

It's the same way with MIT. The students there don't do the amazing things they do simply to pad their resumes or to feel important. The research, the clubs, the academics, the crazy little things like Mystery Hunt - those things happen because the students want them to happen and then make them happen. In that sense, it's not just the faculty who have built up MIT's reputation for excellence, but also the students themselves.

I think, for a lot of people, a motto is just that, a motto: a funny little foreign-sounding phrase, appropriate for invocation at formal occasions, but on the whole fairly meaningless. That's not the way I think of it, and I'm confident in saying that most people at MIT are the same way. Even from the little I've glimpsed of MIT, I know that the ideal of Mens et Manus - the vision of theoretical knowledge and practical arts working together side-by-side to create a better world - is very much alive and kicking on campus. I've seen it in the labs, in the classrooms, in the dorms...even, on occasion, in the eyes of the students themselves.


Lulu said...

It's been a while, Paul Baranay :).

I'm glad that you're still religiously updating your blog, and that the entries are still coherent and haven't degenerated into two-sentence summaries of your daily life (as my blogs are wont to do). When are applications for the admissions blogs due? I considered applying, but realized in half a second that out of all the blogs/online journals/you name it, I probably have one -- that I started, I don't update a single one of them. Sort of a bad track record, yes? (Plus, what are the chances they'd need two bloggers named 'Lulu'?)

Anyway, I hope you're having a good time "playing with cow bones," as you so eloquently put it :D. Drop me a line on FB sometime; those multiple post conversations were fun. And if all else fails, I'll probably see you within the next few weeks anyway.

Wings '11 said...

I would just like to add that Latin is dead, as previously discussed.



Paul said...

To steal a quote from a certain much-beloved headmaster, Latin will only truly have left this earth when none here are loyal to it.

So there. :P