South of the riverbend, twenty minutes along a trail fringed with pink flowers of hardhack and gangly stalks of sweet gale, a black spruce that I call the World Tree stands against a spring sky. Here, within earshot of the encroaching highways of suburban Vancouver, a broad bole streaked with umber meanders skyward. High up, an eagle rides a crest of sea air, glances down, then spirals away. Through a lattice of dark branches restless with vigor, nomadic flecks of blue sweep toward the horizon.
The word mentor is Greek in origin. It refers to a character in The Odyssey, a friend of Odysseus who offers counsel to his son during the father’s long absence upon the sea. But the sage Mentor is actually Athena in disguise, the goddess of war and wisdom who guides and sustains Odysseus through his journey. A mentor, therefore, is a wisdom guide.
The oldest artifacts of human endeavor – cave paintings at Lascaux and Altamira, tools in the Blombos caves, Venus figurines so fantastically old we hardly recognize ourselves – are works of art. Creativity is the imprint of humanity, from the outline of a hand painted with ochre on a cave wall, to the mandalas and sacred paintings of the medieval traditions, to the films and music and poetry of today. Throughout all of human history, creativity has been the means by which we understand the inner and the outer worlds, the crucible in which we store our collected wisdom and our fears. The function of all creative traditions – the arts and the sciences, religion and philosophy, politics and war – is to explore the extent to which we can know ourselves.
Approach Teaching as a Devotion
Plato wrote that the past is like the wake behind a boat; it spreads, and diminishes behind us, and merges with the surrounding sea. The past rolls under and is gone.