In Homer’s epic Odyssey, Mentor was the trusted friend of Odysseus, and, during the Trojan war, Mentor remained in Ithaca to care for Odysseus’ son Telemachus. Mentor’s role was to prepare Telemachus for leadership of the family while Odysseus was away fighting the war. The goddess of wisdom Athena advised Telemachus anonymously when she assumed the identity of Mentor.
Later, the French author, and archbishop of Cambrai, Francois Fenelon (1651 – 1715) wrote, “The Adventures of Telemachus”, in which Fenelon establised a connection between mentoring and education. Something we accentuate today in school programs and community groups.
I have had many mentors in my life, and still do, too many to name all of them here. But John, Skip, Wilfrid, Colin, John, Jeff, Thelma, Harry, Brian, Laurence, Derry, Greta, Peter, Ken, Hughie, Penelope, David, Hillary, Roger, Ken, Adrian, are just a few that are probably more significant overall, and deserve particular mention. Some are perhaps anonymous, or indirect, the people I have encountered briefly, or I have read about, or observed in films and some detail or practice has made sense.
We all need a mentor (and plural too) because our significant others, even our primary mentors and guides may be engaged in something far away, and not necessarily geographically far away, but perhaps psychologically, physically or spiritually. Death has taken several of mine, and diverging paths or points of view has taken others, but for a season, they were there for me when I needed someone most. I have found mentors wherever I have been and in many unlikely places. And for me a mentor is not so much a formal educator, but more of a muse, a stimulous, sometimes a radical sometimes other, occasionally gauche, bohemian, or not. For me it is the trusted person who can hold the space for me to speak, to ponder, to rail, to doubt, to envision and dream. We all need those people in our lives. I have been fortunate to know that others have called me mentor, a privilege I never sought in itself, but one that came through friendship and being there.