"I can always tell a graduate class from an undergraduate class," observed the instructor in one of my graduate engineering courses at California State University in Los Angeles. "When I say, 'Good afternoon,' the undergraduates respond, 'Good afternoon." But the graduate students just write it down."
During the Warring States Period, there was a man named Meng Ke [Mencius], who everyone called MengZi. Menzi was very good at creating analogies to foster discussion.
At that time, there was a person who criticized Mencius for not trying harder to help the King of Qi. Mencius explained plainly, saying, “Take this as an example: there are some plants that live well on this earth [lit: under heaven], but if you take them and put them in the sun to dry for ten days, then you take them and put them in the gloom and cold to freeze for ten days, even if their vitality is strong they’re still going to die. My opportunities to see the King of Qi have been less and less, so even if I gave him some good influence and help, as soon as I leave, some people that don’t advocate the same things I do will influence him negatively. [That being the case,] how can I improve the quality of the King of Qi’s thinking?”
Many years after receiving my graduate degree, I returned to the State University of New York at Binghamton as a faculty member. One day in a crowded elevator, someone remarked on its inefficiency. I said the elevators had not changed in the 20 years since I began there as a student.
When the door finally opened, I felt a compassionate pat on my back, and turned to see an elderly nun smiling at me. "You'll get that degree, dear," she whispered. "Perseverance is a virtue."