President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was introduced to a young New Deal congressman from Texas, Lyndon Baines Johnson in the early 1940’s. Their meeting was brief. The moment FDR saw Johnson he knew that LBJ would one day be President. FDR also knew that LBJ would be a progressive President with enormous ambitions for a just and prosperous society. FDR saw that LBJ would be a shrewd manipulator of Congress, and that he would have a vision of the United States as a powerful and indispensable leader in world affairs.
A split second was all it took. FDR saw himself. A mentor is much different than a teacher. A teacher “learns” the student in relation to whatever skill or knowledge the two are exploring together. A mentor has nothing to learn. He mystically recognizes the other person because the two share a deep connection that was not worked for in any way, but was arranged by fate.
I once had this experience of being deeply and completely recognized in a moment. I met a man. He looked at me and knew what it was that I was good at; what my general orientation was toward life; where my joys and frustrations were. He knew that I was an educator and a writer and a performer that worked with my personal presence more than creating characters; and that I was a theater director of a certain type. He knew I was progressive in my political, social and cultural views and possessed a mystical spiritual orientation that directed it all. He knew that I loved my family and had the young man’s struggle of honoring that bond while creating an independent life in the world. He knew that I saw the difference between real achievement and mere success. He knew my work was about transformation to higher values for the world and not mere aesthetics.
He knew all of this because he was precisely and completely the same way. We didn’t have to discuss what we believed. We didn’t have to agree and disagree on certain points. None of what was between us had to do with what we thought or where we were from. We were simply the same. Our connection was part of who we are.
He didn’t know if I would live out of my authentic nature or not. He simply knew what that nature was. He generally avoided giving me advice. We mostly just enjoyed a kind of mutual recognition of ourselves in the other.
Please note that I am not using the word mentor here in the corporate sense of a person who has succeeded on a similar track and is showing you the ropes by counseling you at times of decision. I am speaking of something more basic and spiritual here. A spiritual mentor sees you and in so doing reveals you to yourself. We find ourselves by looking within and listening without. Encounters with spiritual mentors are part of the natural order of things, one of creation’s ways of guiding us to higher consciousness of our specific lives’ essences and possibilities.
Being with him was like being with a second father with whom I shared traits determined by something other than genetics and history. My first father knew much about who I was. He showed me that I was part of a line of descendants just by standing next to me. I could feel it. He was a good father who paid close attention and did a thorough job. My mentor showed me that I was also part of a line of descendants connected not by blood but by spirit. He stood beside me for a brief time years ago and through a lifetime he continues to show me who I am through my clear memory of his eternally understanding gaze.
The outside world can teach you anything if you let it. A creative intelligence animates all leading us to who and what we need to meet and see. We just need to let it. We don’t change. What evolves is our consciousness of who we are and what is. Spirit guides abound including older versions of ourselves who played our role in previous generations.
Humbling and Awe Inspiring…
And we are parts of existence
Our ego dies
What we are went on before and goes on
At the end of time we find
It is not who we are
The who dies
The What endures
Copyright 2015 Richard Thomas