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Mentoring has become a hot word for our time. Organizations have set up mentoring programs. Companies have set up mentoring program to offer larger companies. Accepting mentoring is accepting the fact that more can be accomplished through collaboration.
Many mentoring programs, however fall short. They have the skills, the knowledge, the time, the motivation but fail because the Mentor and the Mentee do not connect. As Susan F. Wiltshire began her studies and her career she watched the horizon for a mentor. Being on of the first women to enter the University setting as a professor, she longed for a mentor to help her along the rocky path that was ahead. She was well into her thirties when she read the Odyssey with new insight. She writes, "It was an important moment in my life when I finally came to see that the first mentor was a woman after all. Equipped with this story, I began to see mentors all around." (p. xiv)
Mentors are all around us, in our homes, our towns, our schools, our workplace, in politics, in chance encounters. Each adding to our life, marking the pathway before us, or pointing in a direction we had not previously considered. While this view of mentoring is very different from the many programs available, it is the view of the mentee. It is the humble realization of how many people have influenced your life.
Athena's Disguises was a very insightful book, in both my roles of a mentor and a mentee. As a mentee, I was humbled and grateful to the many people who have helped make me who I am today. As a mentor I saw how Athena never stepped in and took over, never gave strict advice but gently guided. As Wiltshire described Athena's role,
"She offers the right words in the right place at the right time, thereby empowering her companions to do for themselves whatever it is they uniquely must do. She helps people become themselves." (p. 131)
As I continue on my own life's journey I will encounter more "mentors" and will have the opportunity to be a mentor to those around me. This is a book that can be read again and again. With each new story, I was reminded of a similar incident in my own life. My role as a mentor has changed, as I have tried to do as Athena, and "help [others to] become [their] best self." (p. 132)
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Despite its subject matter, this book is never depressing. Instead, Dr. Ford captures the inspirational aspects of her brother's life and how it touched the lives of people around him. I found her poems about his struggle especially touching and hope she'll share more of those in another book.
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Some portions of the book (particularly her discussion of the ninth and tenth amendments and her attempt to paint the Apostle Paul as a natural law theorist) are contrived.
I thought the book was a reasonable introduction to the subject until I read her conclusion and a separate essay she wrote on the book, in which she stated that her purpose in writing was to place the origin of the bill of rights in a classical, as opposed to a Judeo-Christian, context. While I would agree with her that the typical fundamentalist exaggerates when he paints the framers of the Constitution as almost entirely orthodox Christians, I would disagree with her conclusion that Christianity was not a primary influence. For a better treatment of this view, read Forrest McDonald's "Novus Ordo Seclorum: Intellectual Origins of the Constitution," where he concludes that it is futile to say with any dogmatism that the "founding fathers thought," or "the founding fathers intended," because the framers of the Constitution were a diverse group with diverse backgrounds and interests.
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