Tuesday, March 29

Memory of a Mentor

Hmmm....what to write about? Going to pick something really really random and give it a whirl. Oh wait - I feel a rabbit trail coming on...

My life has been really rich with amazing mentors. That just occurred to me.

You have to understand that these posts are pretty much written "stream of consciousness". Not as stream of consciousness as As I Lay Dying - but as the thoughts roll out of my head, the fingers type the words. I don't edit much.

So as I typed the words "going to pick something really really random" - my thoughts went to a particular mentor from my life: Joe Campbell. Who was an incredible man. Rarely a week passes that he doesn't cross my mind for some reason or another. In fact, just at dinner this evening, I was discussing geothermal heating/cooling/energy with a friend. And I recall that a house that Joe designed way back in the 60s or 70s utilized that very innovation. I remember him talking about it on his TV show. You see, Joe was one of the many fascinating people that I met while I worked at Lynchburg's public access station.

He had studied the social habits of crows - had raised bees and written a novel about it - had created the first Muppet and then was in a battle over the intellectual property rights with Jim Henson. On his show there were musicians and poets and people with interesting stories to tell. Like the guy who had been on a space ship (not an astronaut...had been on a space ship with extraterrestrials) and folks who communicated with spirits. And one time, when a guest had not showed up for the taping - he told me to write down something on a piece of paper and he would do 30 minutes on what was written there.

I wish I recalled what it was. I remember that as the show unfolded, that I wished I had come up with something better. Joe wanted a challenge - but I think mine fell short of his expectations. And with the experience of several more years with him - and the experience of several more years of just living...I think I would ask him to talk about something far different than whatever simple thing I wrote on the paper.

Here was a man who had this incredible depth of knowledge. Not just knowledge though. Wisdom. He could tell you what the effects of planting basil next to tomatoes would be. He could talk about Egyptology. He could talk about his years in television and radio - which were in the most pivotal years of the development of news and editorial coverage. He knew about politics and religions and cultures and traditions. Plants and animals.

But the most incredible thing about Joe was this: he was a giving and sensitive soul. The person that he was with was the most important person in the world. When you were talking, he was PRESENT. He wasn't thinking about what he was going to say next or what else he had to do that day. YOU were the most important thing going on. What an incredible gift.

And I know that sometimes the stuff that I had to talk about was so stupid. I was young and at the same time I met Joe, I was embarking on an intense romantic relationship with my first real love. And Joe listened to the silly gushing and flirting and was our greatest supporter. Because I met David when we were both volunteering for The Joe Campbell Show. And he thought it was wonderful when we got together. And he was there for both of us when the relationship ended. And he watched us struggle through the adjustment of working together but not being together. And he listened when I fell apart when David fell in love again. And then when David got married. This genius, this writer, this innovator...was always there for me.

So, yes...I think I would ask him to expound for 30 minutes on something deeper than whatever it was I wrote down. But regardless of my failure to learn all that I could have learned from him - he taught me a lot.

Be present in people's lives. Everything else is just secondary.

blogger's note: because one of my followers reminds me that images really help - I wandered off to Google Images to get clip art...even though I thought that this piece was better as just text. On a whim I typed in Joseph Pendleton Campbell and there he was. It took me to a website created by his children after his passing that is about his children's show from 1953. Incredible that I remembered so little about this part of his life. Even more astounded after reading this that he spent so much time with me. Miss you my friend. http://kidshow.dcmemories.com/joecampbell.html

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