Tuesday, October 09, 2007

It sounds like you mean something to someone else

"He was my mentor."
"We are living in community."
These are phrases that give me that searing pain running from my jaw to my right eye which I usually only get while looking at certain small children.
"He is my lover," doesn't bother me at all. But it is a kind of relationship like "mentor".
"I'm from Idaho," equally gets a pass. But it is a locational belonging like "community".
What is the deal? It could be merely the place those words hold in trend-speak. Having a mentor became as necessary as having an iPod and the hobbits buying their dirt cookies at the whole foods store could not imagine being so pedestrian (though they recommend the practice for planetary good) that they merely would live in a "city" and be "citizens". There is wrath in plenty for any whose vocabulary follows the trends. But what is it that the trend violates in us? Mentors exist. Communities exist. Lovers exist. Idaho exists.

I think that part of the crime is that they "name and claim". These are measuring words. The ears that hear need help defining us so it is good for them to hear these words of measurement, words that say a "good" thing without concrete claim of the good it actually bore. No one claims to be someones lover without wanting people to conclude that the two of them are having sex, consensually and regularly. The good claim it makes is specific. Living in Idaho allows even the hill apes back east to realize, with certain specificity, the shape and range of borders inside which I sit.
Mentoring is soft, fuzzy, indistinct and pointless except in the use of the word. The use of the word suggests Socrates and Plato. It is suppose to make you feel that, like lovers in the sack, the mentor and menti are out striding the moor, pipes clenched twixt teeth, with a constant barrage of questions and returning fire of answer ennobling and shaping the man that was into the man with whom he walks. The hearer wants to become, with almost cult member fervor, like his mentor. Now it is actually the guy who shows you where the coffee room is and which middle management poseur you need to avoid. But now you have a "mentor". My objection is that it means more than what they are gaining but they want you to hear the "more". It is like a girl claiming to be someone's lover after having been on date ending in a chaste embrace.
People want the words "mentor" and "community" to still carry the weight of their claim without the needs of performing that which they claimed. It can be beneficial to be guided by someone else's wisdom and it is good to live harmoniously in a social construct. Within the trend all conversations with a more advanced agent are mentoring and every social existence is "in community".
A young lady had expressed recently the interest in living at Big Haus so she could live in community. I told her that we are not interested in living in community, we are a community. The titles are their own delicacy, and their sweetness to our spoken reputation is that of saccharine not sugar. Artificial sweeteners are a sweet without the cost of calories but they are also a life not even half lived.
Many hope the spoken word calls things into existence which are not yet but many have learned to like the "taste" of the fake flavor. The more they say "community" the more it feels to them that they have one. I say if you find a mentor, be then mentored but never say it, even in your dreams.

Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.
I John 3:18

15 comments:

Thomas Banks said...

These days, when someone says "Mentor" it's almost always in reference to a professional academic relationship, a la "Dr. Smith mentored me while I was preparing my dissertation at Yale." That's not inflating the nature of your relationship; that IS your relationship. Maybe we're hearing it from different sets of people, but I can't recollect any time I've heard anyone use it in such a way that would suggest a pose on their part.

Michal said...

Something I think I might have heard recently in a church I might attend, "We are all broken, we are trying every day to make our priorities God's priorities, to follow in his will, and then our brokenness won't overcome." So....are you talking about sin? Or coming from death to life, or not sinning?

Evan G. said...

Ipods are unnecessry. I only have one because all the kids at school like me now.

The Oracle said...

Tom,
Even in those settings the claim of mentorship is a claim of something more tender, even gay in the Jason sense. The claim is to say that unlike an adviser or counselor, this person tells me things that touch my soul. I warn you, as I have warned before, if you get a mentor you will be playing soccer, voting for Ron Paul, and getting all emergent on us in no time flat.

Joshua Gibbs said...

In that it is probably Christ Church people being not-subtly referred to here, this whole matter seems like the kind of thing it is best to just get over. It ain't like something important is on the line.

The Oracle said...

Josh,
Your hermeneutic has led you astray. "Christ Church people being not-subtly referred to" is a far from actuality. There are many situations and posts (for instance the Semi-Pelagian just prior) in which I deal with issues where the ears of Kirkland might certainly prick up. This was not one of them. This is the kind of word trend I hear in the World, from secularists. Just because some of the Kirk plays soccer or are the only people this side of the Martian landscape to consider for a nanosecond voting for the certifiable loon that is Ron Paul, doesn't mean what you have concluded. The Kirk might be postmodern but it is not emergent by any stretch.

tmm said...

When I read this the first thing I thought of was the local congregation building a "church without walls" to strengthen community. Community is the major theme of most of the sermons the church has been preaching for a while.

But, though the term may be saccharine I can't look down on them; they are acting out the verse you quoted. All they have ever been to me is hospitable and I can't argue when they give the starving students free lunches, or send money and workers to orphanages around the world.

I never thought of the word "mentor" as dirty, either, and in some cases it is positively useful. A mentor did a great deal of good for a friend of mine. Led him to the lord, despite the ensuing havoc it caused in his family, and years later his faith is continuing to grow.

The Oracle said...

Again, for emphasis, it is not mentors or communities which give my soul the fits, it is those words unctuously uttered just because "mentors" are cooler than "advisers" or even a "wise man". You'd think with my oracular gifts on all things that I would want this usage to grow. My career might benefit by mentoring the clueless.
I agree with those defenders of the usage that somewhere, somehow, these ideas have value. But all things with value can have an inflated value.

The Oracle said...

And add this to the realm of my concern:
Matthew 23:5-10
They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ.

Joshua Gibbs said...

Then I am wrong! and apologize.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Oracle,

I am disappointed. When I first read your fine words in the New York Times story a few weeks back re: NSA, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to come to Idaho and beg you to be my mentor.

Today I drove behind a Prius that was decorated with a bumper sticker bearing these transcendent words: "We are all world citizens." To show the driver how well I live in community, I poured carbon concentrate into the gas outlet of his fine car.

Oddly, these words you dislike -- the "live in community" idiom just slays me -- prompt me to think of antonyms and inversions. I have been living in disunity, I think, and making the most of it; and while I have never had a mentor -- no matter how much I brown-nosed around a professor's lectern after class in college -- I do like to tell everyone that I am a mentor -- to just about anybody. (And though I am sure some folks are aggravated when you call yourself a Tory, perhaps you can mollify them by adding that you also work as a mentor to like-minded souls; you know, a Tor-mentor.)

"Irregardlessly" yours,

Bill Gnade

The Oracle said...

Bill,
There is that charming part in Dante where punsters are roasted over slow burning briquettes. They do, like Dives, cry out in their torment for a finger dipp'd in water. The demons chuckle as they turn the crank and pointedly, in charming Tuscan dialect, refer their victim's dryness of mouth to the close proximity of (giggle)the spit.

Anyway Bill, do come out sometime. My porch is not the deserved ring in the Inferno but is a beatific place full of comfy seating, single malt and cigars. We would have a good time each avoiding the influence of the other.

Jeff Moss said...

Just as long as you both resist the temptation to try to (gasp!) mentor each other.

-Jeff :-)

Philistine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philistine said...

These mentors...it seems to me that they are spending too much time with people who need menting. Perhaps their time would be better spent sharpening their iron on the wit of their own ilk...dispensing their pearls to a more deserving and discerning audience. Or could it be that those pearls would lose some of their luster in that company?

Whatever.

Let the wannabe mentees look, listen, and learn.