In completely unrelated news, I recently discussed a tendency to take an interest in people who have (or are trying) an interesting outlook on life. I mentioned that I couldn't find what benefit I got from this even after looking at it for a week. I realized yesterday that I was looking in the wrong place. I was looking for a practical/rational benefit to what's mostly an emotional exploration. I do that too much. The emotional benefit is simple: if I understand someone else enough to have empathy with what is going on for them, I experience the positive benefits of this empathy. That isn't quite enough to explain it. Also I think there are probably some practical issues going on as well—probably issues that happen at a low enough level I won't notice them unless I am looking. At least I'm making progress in understanding myself.
Actions have consequences. It's cool when the consequences are positive. I was recently shown how effective reassuring people and working to earn trust can be. It's also a bit of frightening; it is easy to create an implicit commitment to respect people and to be worthy of their trust. Such a commitment can be important to the people who are trusting you.
The current SIPB chair, along with a few active members, are getting to a good start revitalizing the organization. SIPB has declined in active membership over the past few years. I realize that interest in MIT student groups goes in cycles, but it was getting to a point where finding enough student members to hold necessary offices was somewhat problematic. Past attempts to get new members have managed to get people to show up initially but by this point in term previous efforts had started to fall off because new people were not involved in projects or otherwise pulled into the organization. So far, many students do seem to be showing up at meetings and efforts to get some of them involved in projects appear to be working. It's a very positive sign at least. I'm a bit concerned that many of the new students don't seem to be that comfortable around the office; they tend to go there only when they have some specific goal to accomplish at SIPB. This may not actually be a problem, but it is at least a sign of a significant change.