Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Mentors and Hope
“We were talking about the love that's gone so cold, and the people who gain the world and lose their soul…”. (1) I just came from a class where we were discussing a story called “Pacific Sunset”. The class is called “Audio Visual Listening” (2) but in fact we discuss and share as much as we listen. Today, we listened to a song called “Don’t Be Shy” (3). A student named Lily brought together child-rearing practices and how perhaps the these practices that make us lonely as children and later lonely as adults. Speculating that this “shyness”, that is so common (especially here in China) might be brought about by the shyness (and loneliness) of our parents. She said we must be do better as parents in the future. During the discussion of the story she stated that “The Creator” is something that we all feel driven to discover but whom (or what) we have so little knowledge of. Another student (Dawn) made the comment that we are born knowing certain things like how to be parents, how to be teachers and so on. By implication, along the path of life we lose much of this innate understanding.
Last night, during the Story Evening(4) , about 40 students were talking about another story called “Mongolian Breakfast”(5) and talking about mentors. As I thought about my own life, I thought (and shared) something about my first “conscious” (or semi-conscious) mentor, Stanley Jackson of Galiano Island, BC, Canada. What I came to understand in the course of the evening was what it is that mentors give us: hope. They may not (and perhaps usually do not) give us answers, but they stand in their shoes, in this life, in a certain moment in time and they give us hope. They may tell us little, but they show us that this life (that can seem so cruel sometimes) is worth it, it has purpose, it has love, it has joy and our mentors give us hope. This hope leads us to love and that love leads to peace of mind.
After class I was working on my computer and came across a directory of old family photos. I saw pictures of my father and my uncle. I saw them as children, as young adults and as elderly men. I saw the loss of innocence and much more than I can put words to. I ask myself what was it that they lost? I thought about my extended family and the heartbreak and trials that life has brought; the shallowness, the sorrows, the broken relationships and I thought more…
Then I thought back about the story “Pacific Sunset” and the things that surrounded the 37 guests gathered in a living room overlooking the Pacific Ocean: “The sounds of the Pacific Ocean filtered in between the words of the story. Finally, the clouds received the sun, and a great painting appeared in the sky. Orange, yellow, and gray were the main colors—but there were others too—if you looked closely enough.”(6)
Then I thought of my dear father (who was a great teacher and who I love dearly) and I thought about a certain emotional torture that you could see if you looked deeply into his heart. It struck me that he had no way to understand the eternal questions in life. He had no story, no plausible explanation, no believable story to explain where we come from or why we are here, let alone where we go next.
And it occurred to me that beyond the purpose of “carry[ing] forward an ever-advancing civilization”(7) one of the purposes of religion is to give us hope, to give us a believable, plausible explanation to these great questions of life. Without some believable answers we lose hope and without hope our life is at best a quiet, orderly misery.
The mentors in our life restore this hope. Even if they don’t give us the answers, they give us hope that answers exist and that we may one day find them.
1 - “Within You Without You”, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul Mccartney
2 - A class for English majors at Guizhou University
3 - Written by Cat Stevens
4 - A weekly event here at Guizhou University
5 - Still Reflections: Stories of the Heart, 207-211
6 - Still Reflections: Stories of the Heart, 263
7 - Baha’u’llah, Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, 215