“Ever to Excel”: the oft-overlooked motto of our hallowed institution. An institution that has inarguably sent out excelling graduates the world over, to change countless lives for the better and to leave a lasting impact that can be lovingly traced back to the intimately huddled streets of St Andrews. In our inaugural editorial we would like to consider just what this motto means by considering it in two halves.
‘Ever’ cajoles us to attend to that incessantly passing metric: time. It is a finite joy allotted us humans by progeniture and providence alone, permitting all human development, undertaking, and progress. Forget the sword, we much more frequently live and die by the clock hand; hence the importance of racing against it. No one shall outrun it indefinitely. Life is life, and life is precious for the fact that we are all to be caught. Thus, in this momentous sliver of serendipitous existence it falls to each of us to make the absolute most of it: to speak truthfully, to run unwaveringly, to strive unfalteringly towards the aims that impassion us. This is a dramatic ideal, perhaps, but the beauty, vitality, and importance thereof remain best formulated in the seizing words of 17th-century English pastor Richard Baxter, as he proclaimed, “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.”
Now to the second part — what does it mean to excel? Reading The Iliad, from which “ever to excel” originates, might give you a multitude of different possible meanings. It might imply that excelling means honing your skills to the point where you are, objectively, the best at something. That excelling means other people singling you out as an example, a role model, a hero. That excelling means being talked about for generations succeeding you, much like we discuss the protagonists of The Iliad, now. Truly excelling, however, depends not on other people’s judgements. It depends on your sense of self, growth, and achievement. It depends on looking forward and seeing that the future is more promising than what you’ve left behind. It depends on your ability to use criticism not for self-flagellation, but as a springboard to better yourself, the people around you, and the environments you inhabit.
From The Iliad, to one of the greatest love stories of our time: Juliet and Mark in Love Actually. Mark, a kindred spirit of so many in St Andrews who have been relegated to the enduring platonic zone, overcomes the rain, overturns his fears, and overwhelms his apprehensions to carry out an unforgettable act of endearing bravery. His great exertion, noble as it be, is replicable for us all. In the freezing Scottish rain, on those jarring, jagged cobblestones, before those imposing townhouse doors, be like Mark. You don’t need to be the best; you’re getting better.