Recently, a young lad of 16 stayed here as part of his school’s work experience/mentoring program. The project he set out to do during his six days was to document myself and Windgrove through interviews and film footage. Back at school this would be turned into an hour long video.
I had forgotten how much a teenage boy can eat.
When talking to young Byron about art, the importance of tree planting, the philosophy behind the creation of Windgrove as a refuge for learning, the need to abstain from alcohol and drugs, my own personal foibles and shadow history — basically, what I felt to be the most appropriate, purposeful guidance to someone just starting to forage their Way into being an adult — as honest as I tried to be, I was aware that I had the potential to feed personally biased information to a growing malleable and curious mind.
Even explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of the Peace Garden could see me “bending” the truth in order to get a point across; thereby, prejudicing his enquiring mind with answers that, possibly, only served to pad my own sense of truth (even if gained over 66 years of adventurous living).
(As an aside, I often question why our “elder” teachers very rarely step down off the podium in order to sit as a student again. Perhaps the ego enhancing, rapt attention of those front row dewy eyes are not directed at them?)
Instead of providing specifics or dogma about how to live, a good elder need only work to open up those mentored hearts and minds to the “wonder, awe and gratitude” at their luck in being simply alive on this planet at this time in its evolutionary history. The rest will take care of itself.
A good elder will talk of the necessity of “continued patience and exploration”; of the importance of a life time spent polishing technical capabilities whilst always venturing off the well trod path of conformity into the mysterious, slightly dangerous, sometimes lonely, unknown zones where creativity dwells. From this will come a “skilled compassion”.
A good elder will understand that he/she is only there at the beginning of the youth’s lifetime journey and will not be around to witness its mature flourishing. Sort of like planting trees. You give them a healthy start along with a prayer and then allow their inner blossoming to unfold as they are wont to do, anyways.
At the culmination of my week with Byron, I could only admire and stand back and watch with admiration the agility and optimistic depth of this young person about to fall head long into the waters of life.