“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” - Howard Thurman, mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King
One of the things that made me come alive recently was Rodney McMillian’s new artwork exhibit at the sf moma: incredible. Zooming into small pieces of the spectacular whole … every square inch could stand alone as an art piece. The audio sound track is a loop of commentary about homelessness, and raising awareness about poverty as a national crisis … The crushing waves are very moving.
Even more alive and astonished I feel in learning that Dr. Martin Luther Kind had a Mentor, I never knew this … I was raised on the values of civil rights, social justice, speeches by Martin Luther King, how did I never know that he had a Mentor? I have always loved the concept of a mentor, probably from watching Dad have a few. Academics get to have them. I know that my father had one or two in his wonderful, expansive career as a social justice-oriented pastor, including one man who saw certain gifts Dad had, when Dad was in college, and this Seeing changed the course of Dad’s life by suggesting that he go to seminary. Mr. Shellhase saw Dad’s gifts, Dad didn’t pay him … Dad also was an academic mentor for many seminarians in their growing careers as an established part of the seminary experience, so I know he knew this kind of forming was valuable … Like parenting, the careful juxtaposition of guiding and letting them just fly …
I suppose in my non-seminary world, life coaches are a kind of mentor, but what I like about the kind of mentor I’m talking about is that there is a real friendship there too, it’s not a paid transaction. There is a Recognition coming from the mentor to the mentee and with that genuine guidance and support, the mentee has the courage to think very differently. I somehow love that Martin Luther King did have guidance, wise support … It firms up for me that we can’t go at this alone, this Being In the ‘Arena’. And of course it should not be a side note, Wow, talk about the risk King was willing to take because his belief in justice was that strong … There is no bigger way to be in the arena than being willing to sacrifice your own life …
As I stare into Rodney McMillian’s beautiful wall art, I can appreciate his profound political statement but need to pull back into myself, out of self preservation. I can feel the bleakness of homelessness in Rodney’s art, and how fragile we humans are especially when we try to control our perfect lives. Or the more true statement is, I can feel the concept of homelessness when we are busy manifesting another life, a life we dream of, there is a fragility in that too.
When I ponder deep into his widening and rolling artwork and sketch randomely into the shape …. These are amazing lines and shapes for me to design into … Not recreate, rather, be inspired and expand upon.
Then, I realize that the lines, shapes, patterns become my yearning for Mentors … I want my sketch to represent the idea that there will be more mentors in my life … That for various reasons I grieve the loss of other mentors … Or people I thought could be mentors …
And maybe one huge misconception I’ve had in all the work I’ve done with my life coach/spiritual guide is in this idea of learning how to trust myself, and knowing what my Truth is. Existing out of this self-trust. I love this teaching and I have learned to do it well, but at the same time it also makes me go back to an old script which is to think I can do everything alone, don’t need help and no one can teach me anything anyway. I can teach myself. Careful, Me, stay open.
I realize another wonderful point, actually. Just now. That I’ve been yearning for my Tribe and I kind of have that one. (When I am whiney I don’t see it.) I have different layers of Tribe. I love this creative Bay Area, I love my partner, my friends, my family, all tribes of varying layers. What I needed to be clear - clarity! - about is finding a Mentor. Someone to see me for what I am doing. I’m pretty sure that Dad had an inkling that he would never fit into traditional boxes, that he also felt his professional calling, before his Mentor found him … He just needed a little bit of Recognition … Maybe that is the part that summons Mentors, the knowing you won’t fit. When I think of movie plots I’ve seen, this usually shows up as a significant plot line.
That’s what this pattern makes me feel. Start with pencil, move into vector art and then run with it … But first, as always, you have to dream it up, and name it.
Good inner work today, I must say. Gratitude.