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    CiRCE Talks: Vigen Guroian’s Mentor

    September 24, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap] listened to Vigen Guroian’s Mentor {for the second time} last night on a drive with my oldest. The good news is that my son enjoyed the talk because Guroian uses examples — many beautiful examples — from literature. Even little eight-year-old boys are familiar with Charlotte’s Web {and the relationship between Charlotte and Wilbur} and The Jungle Book {and the various jungle creatures who raise Mowgli and help him become the master of the jungle}.

    The bad news is that I can’t take notes while I’m driving.

    Also, I think I’ve realized that my copy of The Jungle Book is abridged.

    Total bummer.

    So unlike last week, when I had six pages or so of details, including exact quotes, now all I have is my impressions and vague recollections because, alas, I have poor recall if I do not write what I have learned.


    With that disclaimer, here is what I remember:

    • The mentor/mentee relationship is always voluntary.
    • Said relationship is initiated by the mentor because the mentor is the authority in the relationship.
    • The offer of mentoring is responded to by the mentee — he has the right to refuse.
    • The relationship is unequal — the mentor is greater than the mentee.
    • Therefore, the mentee is, more often than not, younger than the mentor
    • Guroian says this should be of particular interest to teachers, but I wonder about that. The classroom is necessarily an involuntary situation — as is the parent/child relationship. This doesn’t mean that there can’t enter in a mentoring relationship, and maybe that is what he means when he is addressing teachers this way.
    • The mentor seems to teach the mentee Permanent Things. Even though the mentee is learning valuable skills along the way, that is not all he is learning. He is learning the secrets of life, what it means to be human, that there is an ultimate Authority, etc.
    • Mentors/mentees are not “friends.” Big brother programs make a mockery of mentorship to the extent that they {1} assign the relationship and {2} try to act as if the grown up is equal to the teen.

    Guroian decries our culture’s loss of the mentoring relationship, and also its poor substitutes.

    I don’t think we can solve this sort of problem until we become comfortable with hierarchy — with the idea that there is someone who is greater than I.

    By the way, we Americans have a perverted sense of equality. When our Founders declared that “all men are created equal,” they did not mean that there weren’t those who were greater than others. What they meant was that the lowly are of equal worth when compared to the great. The mentoring relationship is an act of love, when the great reach down to the lowly and offer to share with them the essence of greatness.

    This requires humility on the part {or at least the pleasant ignorance we see in Wilbur the pig} of the mentee.

    Back when Siah and I were serving in a ministry for newlywed couples, I remember than many of the girls in the group desired a “Titus 2 relationship” with an older woman. There were many attempts to try and facilitate such relationships, but for the most part I think Guroian would have said they were contrived. But whether they were or not is beside the point. I think that part of the struggle in creating that sort of relationship — in having it come about naturally within the community — is because we don’t really have a place in our culture for an unequal relationship. We don’t know how to make it happen. We feel awkward outside of our own peer groups.

    As an aside, I think that is the greatest danger of the school — the age segregation. It prevents the diversity that is necessary for a culture.

    As a final note, I loved how Guroian explained that recovering the mentoring relationship helps us to treasure our old. Rather than discarding them, we see them as a source of wisdom.



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