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Why the Spirit Rarely Survives

The spirit of the law, of an institution, a country, a song or a movement, are the most important things to them. They serve as symbols for people to rally around. In a deceptively light talk at TED, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells us of the dangers of the single story.

I think that the spirit is a single story. A single vision of how things should be, whether in law, colleges or countries for that matter. This single story however rarely survives the test of time, and I say that it is a virtue that such a thing happens, however in a lot of cases this original story becomes a background noise.

The original purpose is usually lost in the multitude of stories which become part of that one story. What usually ends up happening is that a group of such other stories merge into one and overshadow the original. Like marketing managers dictating film scripts. The original purpose of the film is lost in trying to propagate that original purpose itself.

In order for the spirit to be propagated, it must be made digestible for a lot of different kinds of people. It is usually this process of transformation which completely destroys the spirit.

If however, the spirit survives this brutal assault, it ends up even stronger, like  Nietzsche said. IITs, MIT, Harvard and St. Stephen's, all have had their spirit tested and have survived this. What has brought them fame and excellence is that they have managed to make the original purpose continue to live on as a powerful current in the ocean despite of all the other stories surrounding them.

Other institutes drown in the multitude of stories. We must not let the means become the end.