For the Not Admitted Students by Chris S. '11
I just wanted to tell you a story. It has a moral, but you don't have to accept it if you don't want to.
I just wanted to say that please don’t give up hope, and I know that each one of you possesses a talent that will make you stars at wherever you choose to go – even if it’s not at MIT.
I want to share with you a story.
Please take it as you will.
Best of luck to you as you seek out the next step.
(and for those that think I’m too verbose, please just read this. Ben has put it more beautifully than any of us ever will.)
ps. I realize that I’m posting this in conjunction with the Admitted blog, which is quite cheery in contrast to this blog, but please do realize that I mean good for all of you and I’m not being trite or superficial. I wrote this on Saturday night, after the decisions came out. Different people may take this decision differently – I’m more of an optimist so I believe in “this too shall pass,” but I hope you will be able to find your own balance. Keep on smiling. I’ll keep you in mind. :)
He gathered up this two most successful disciples in front of him, and led them to a steep rock face at the back of the temple. The rock face was full of crags and sharp rocks, and towered over the temple.
He told them, “the first one to use his own strength to climb up this rock face to the very top shall be my successor.”
The first monk, who was young, energetic, and full of vigor, began to climb. However, soon he was defeated by the slippery rocks, which yielded very little handholds nor footholds.
He descended, starting again carefully, plotting his route to the top. However, about a quarter of the way up the slope, a rock fragment that he had been holding onto broke, and he tumbled down the cliff, hurting himself in several places.
Many people expected him to give up; instead, he asked for a towel and some water. After briefly cleaning his wounds, he attempted the summit once more.
Navigating carefully through the cracks and learning from his past mistakes, he was able to get up nearly halfway, when he encountered a particularly big rock in his path. Groping around the stone, he attempted to secure a handhold, when suddenly a gust of wind knocked him off balance and he toppled off from where he was standing, sending him plummeting below.
Fortunately, he avoided the sharp rocks at the bottom of the cliff, although the fall knocked him unconscious. The head monk summoned some novice monks to carry the first monk back to the temple to rest.
It was soon time for the second monk to try his luck at the cliff.
Like the first monk, the second monk soon was covered in scrapes and bruises from head to toe. Many of the younger monks signaled at the head monk to stop this pointless challenge, but the head monk stood impassive.
After another spectacular fall, the second monk rallied his strength and once again climbed up to the rock face. Very soon, he approached the same spot that caused the demise of the first monk.
The stone was there, formidable and unyielding as it was for the first monk.
Attempting to grope around the stone again, the second monk realized that there was no handhold at all around this stone. Sighing in frustration, he momentarily paused to wipe his brow.
The younger monks gathered at the base of the cliff peered anxiously at the second monk, wondering whether he would be able to find a way around this stone, when suddenly – the second monk began to descend, rather than continue up.
The younger monks hurried to prepare towels and water for the second monk, thinking that he had finally given up for good. However, upon reaching the base of the cliff, he walked away from the crowd into the woods nearby.
The second monk trudged through the wood, found the bright glimmer that he has been looking for, and proceeded to follow the stream upwards. After trudging through the woods and coming to numerous clearings, the second monk finally reached a place where the forest ended and he was surrounded by sunlight. Pausing briefly, the second monk followed the sunshine, and in no time at all he was standing at the top of the cliff – the crowd that had gathered to watch the challenge mere dots beneath his feet.
Down at the bottom of the cliff, there was a stream of murmur amongst the younger monks.
“He didn’t climb up the cliff!”
“Didn’t he hear that the instructions were to climb up the slope?”
“Do you think the head monk would be angry at him?”
“Didn’t he just take the easy way out?”
After what seemed to be an eternity, the second monk emerged from where he entered, and proceeded to the crowd.
The head monk, who had been stoic and still up to this point, got up, removed the amber pendant that had been his symbol of power in the temple, and slowly placed it upon the neck of the second monk.
Then, turning to the crowd, he announced quietly:
“I have found my successor.”
The younger monks fell into an uproar – a conglomeration of murmurs that resembled the angry buzzing of mosquitoes on a summer day.
The ex-head monk slowly raised his hand, and the noise subsided.
“I have already known that climbing this cliff with one’s bare hands is impossible.
Yet, why did I ask them to perform this task as an challenge?
I have always taught you that, ‘the wise adapts to his circumstances; the clever stays versatile with his surroundings.’
Climbing this impossible cliff signifies the struggle that each one of us embodies within himself. The quest to fame, success, glory, recognition, wealth, and our inner desires. So intent we are on reaching the peak that we sometimes hurt ourselves on getting there – bruises and scrapes aside, sometimes we get knocked out so severely that we are forced to give up on our quest.
However, I wanted all of you to realize that there is more than one way up to the top. The truly wise will recognize that there are alternative ways to get to the peak, and that is precisely what your new head monk did – he must have seen the path up the river, just as I did when I was younger and tried climbing this cliff.
Climbing this slope was merely a test of whether you are able to pick yourself up from your defeat, analyze what was the problem, and find a new way in getting to where you want to be.
It is true that perhaps your new head monk doesn’t possess the ability or the capacity to climb up this cliff using his sole strength, but to me, his versatility of seeking an alternate solution and still getting to the top is what matters – not only to this temple, but also to life and the challenges that come with it.”
The remote temple was silent, and for a moment the faint chirping of birds was all that was heard. The head monk gathered up his robe, and began to return to the temple. Pausing briefly, he turned back at the young monks and said,
“Remember this: if the mountain doesn’t move, then let the roads move; if the road doesn’t move, then let yourself move; if you don’t move, then let your heart move.”
-story told to me when I was very young.