Soul Mates, Mentors, and Kindred Spirits
By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer
There’s a great scene in Good Will Hunting where beleaguered counselor Sean Maguire [played by Robin Williams] asks Will Hunting if he has a soul mate. Will is nonplussed when his first response – his loyal friend Chuckie – is summarily dismissed as a candidate by Sean as unfitting for the title.
“Some you can relate to, someone who opens things up for you,” he explains.
“Sure, I’ve got plenty of those,” replies Will confidently as he goes on to list a long line of poets, writers, historians and philosophers: Nietzsche, Frost, Shakespeare. The one problem with that list, according to Shawn, is that all of Will’s mentors are dead.
“You can’t have a lot of dialogue with them,” he says.
“Not without a heater and some serious smelling salts,” Will jauntily replies.
The scene keeps going, as Sean lectures Will on the need for real-life soul mates, and the importance of peppering your life with individuals who will lift you up and inspire you to become a better person. What Sean calls Souls Mates, I call mentors – or, even more specifically – Kindred Spirits.
I think the quest for a mentor or kindred spirit is a noble one. But I suspect that finding such a superhuman individual – the person who inspires and challenges you, lifts you up and catches you when you fall, all with a ready smile and a warm embrace – can feel like the hunt for the Holy Grail. I’m sure there are folks out there leading sophisticated lives full of Algonquin Table cocktail parties and philosophical debates over perfectly brewed cappuccinos, all while their nurturing, patient mentors smile benignly from the sidelines.
But I’m going to bet that rubbing shoulders with the intellectuals and visionaries of our age leaves little time to peruse the blog of a lowly trade magazine editor. So I’m going to focus on how, even when we’re stuck in a small town, or isolated in a large city, there are accessible mentors and kindred spirits all around.
If you’re here reading this blog, chances are we’re walking side-by-side along the same path; looking for guidance and inspiration anywhere we can find. It will surprise none of my regular readers to discover that while I like the idea of a living, breathing mentor, I don’t think Will’s list is all that ridiculous.
My past is full of wisdom gleaned from words written decades – if not centuries – before I was born. And while Julia Cameron and Anne Lamott have helped and guided my creative process for years now, I’ve never met either lady – and doubt that I ever will.
It does not diminish their influence.
I think we’re lucky if we find any kindred spirits at all. That spark of recognition. The intense joy of validation. There’s nothing else like it. If you’re feeling stuck or in need of a little extra encouragement, today I suggest you seek out an old literary mentor…whether it’s Maurice Sendak or William Shakespear, Austin or Burrows, they’ve all got something amazing, inspiring and energizing to tell you. They’re just waiting for your call.
In the meantime, here’s a poem I wrote a few years back after being inspired by one of my own kindred spirits, Emily Dickinson. In her words, I found a distillation of a feeling I could never quite put a finger on. After reading her interpretation, I tried my own.
If a mentor is someone who challenges you to challenge yourself, to face your fears and test your skills, all while making anything seem possible, then I doubt anyone could do better than Ms. Dickinson.
Now see which mentors can inspire you to get to the page!
By Elizabeth Cutright
It could be Spring–
birds and bees and everything blooming –
that makes me start to wonder when
I last tasted someone’s lips.
It could be Fall –
cozy fires and falling leaves –
that leaves me anticipating
hot hands and lazy embraces.
It could be Summer –
sand in my hair and sea salt on my skin –
that makes me yearn
for quiet, heady abandon.
It could be Winter –
families gathering and gifts on the hearth –
that makes me wonder
where you are, and where you’ve been.
Sun or snow, rain or shine –
seasons make no difference –
Emily’s Bee hovers; no sharp sting or honeyed kiss,
Feb. 6, 2005