Debts of Gratitude

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A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,

  • Churchgoing, by Philip Larkin

Marcus Aurelius begins Book 1 of Mediations by listing things, events, and lessons for which he is thankful. This includes help he received, lessons from his fellow men, and events of fate.

Take, for example, the below passage on not being a grammar nazi:

From Alexander the grammarian: not to leap on mistakes, or captiously interrupt when anyone makes an error of vocabulary, syntax, or pronunciation, but neatly to introduce the correct form of that particular expression by way of answer, confirmation, or discussion of the matter itself rather than its phrasing — or by some other such felicitous prompting.

Or, for something far more essential:

From my [adoptive] father: gentleness, and an immovable adherence to decisions made after full consideration...

This is an important task, and one that few of us actually perform. So, I’m asking everyone reading right now, to perform this essential task, and in doing so, pass on some lessons to the rest of us as well. Yet, posting life lessons in the comment section of a blog is sermonizing at best and pointless at worst. This is where Model UN comes in.

Model United Nations, also known as Model UN or MUN, is an educational simulation and/or academic activity in which students can learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations.

When you have learnt so much from a format and a field which has given you so much, and has made you who you are, I believe there is an obligation to give something back. Lets get something straight. Model UN is not the goal, has no value as of itself, and is an educational tool. It becomes irrelevant when you acquire the skills and have the experiences you set out to have. But you keep MUNing because there are skills we never knew mattered, but which did eventually. Some of us may never make it to the big league of hushed tones, reverence, and regional awe, as with so many whose names you know. Yet, you will at least have learned what we set out to learn.

What, then, will we learn? Well, for instance:

You will have learnt to speak with limited time, clearly and concisely, with force, without rambling, with feeling, without pomposity or grandeur, in a coherent order, for a particular purpose. You will have learnt the enormous importance of details: grammar, semicolons, procedure, rules. You will have learnt how to agree with opponents without losing ground and to disagree with allies without losing trust. You will have learnt the enormous power of a smile, a friendly demeanour, and a helping hand will have in guiding a first-timer. You will have learnt how to cope with failure, how to lose gracefully, and do these things equally well whether or not you deserved to fail.

Having been partially successful in learning some of these things, I’m going to emulate Aurelius and list some things I’ve learnt from people I'm proud to have been acquainted with. I'll also refrain from quoting the absolute giants of the circuit who I don't know personally. These include the likes of Ashwin Shanbagh, Brahadeesh Srinivasan, and the like(not many of the like exist). Just the experience of watching them debate and perform has been enormously instructive, and those experiences cannot be condensed to brief paragraphs as I do below.

From Sandra the Sex-Gen: how to hold a stance and adhere unwaveringly to decisions made; the importance of detail and nuance; how to be honest; how to get along with people whom you don't like; how to get along better with those whom you do like; how to organise; to read patiently and carefully; how to research.

From Hafis the Orator: the importance of thinking before speaking; to speak slowly and limit the number of points you include in every speech(Note: I've recieved this advice from so many people that I don't even remember all of them. They know who they are.)

From KK, the best resolution-drafter in the seven kingdoms: some inkling of how to write a good resolution; the importance of detail; the importance of choosing words with care and never using them loosely or indiscriminately;

There are so many more, and they names I've mentioned here are just because they are the first to have come to mind. Acknowledging the entirety of my debts would require far more than this medium allows.

I do have one favour to ask of you. In the Facebook comments below, you can tag those from who you have learnt and acknowledge your own debts of Model UN gratitude, and ask them to do the same. This will let the rest of the people reading this learn from your experiences, and to remind all of us of what we are, in the end. A community. A varied one, full of idiosyncrasy, arrogance, and foolish posturing. Not a game but an educational sport. The equivalent of intellectual football, and as in all sport, the torch must be passed, and we must learn from the old as well as the new.

Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

  • Churchgoing, Philip Larkin