A Mentor of Mine

If you click on mentors and curse down the index page, you found articles about people who influenced the development of my role models. Interestingly, a number of them, I have never met. One of my mentors is Thomas Edward Lawrence...better known as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence and I have never met but have many things in common.

Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia

When I saw the movie back in my freshman year at Muskingum College, I was not aware of all the similarities between the two of us. I did see myself as adventuresome and someone looking for excitement. However, I missed many of the other parallels until later in life.

T. E. Lawrence Al
T. E. Lawrence

When I became a senior at Muskingum, I became a teaching assistant in The Arts. That opportunity was a golden moment in my educational experience; it changed me. Interestingly, Lawrence loved the arts also. In addition, love for the arts comes from ones creativity. Creativity is the result of which hemisphere of the brain is the dominant. Right brain people are creative. Lawrence and I are both right brain. While creativity obviously relates to the arts, it also applies to all things in life not just art.

Both Lawrence and I loved history and philosophy especially as it relates to the Greeks. Lawrence often repeated Themistocles' words: "I cannot fiddle, but I can make a great state from a little city." When I am teaching, I always quote Shelley who said, "We are all Greeks." We derive the very basis of who we are in the West in the arts, politics, philosophy, writing, and life in general from the Greeks. Had it not been for the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE, we would have lost most of that cultural Greek DNA.

However, I am aware of other parallels between Lawrence and me in my adulthood. He was and I am nonchalant in our behavior. While being nonchalant and causal in our demeanor, we do what we want...even in wearing apparel. We wear what we like as opposed to fitting in with the crowd. This is Lawrence while a colonel in the British Army in 1914-18.

T. E. Lawrence Al
T. E. Lawrence

Lawrence wrote about his fashion statement, "Feisal asked me if I would wear Arab clothes like his own while in the camp... I agreed at once, very gladly; for army uniform was abominable when camel-riding." As for me, I own more Jerry Garcia ties than any person that I know. In fact, I probably own more than Jerry Garcia did.

Hypocrisy rattles both of us. Any form of self-righteousness or holier-than-thou attitude drives us both to up the proverbial wall. I do not know what he thought when he saw people acting pompous, but I know what I think. I would love to ask the person, "Are you kidding me? Do you really think that others don't see the stupid charade that you are putting on?"

This hypocrisy was especially true for Lawrence in his dealings with the British attitude toward the Arabs. My dissing the English is related to their attitude toward the Scots. It drives me wild, and I do not live in Scotland. Nonetheless, I second Lawrence's attitude in regards to the English. This is one area where I have said and written much about my contempt about their attitude to the Scots. I have written a couple dozen articles about Scottish independence, interviewed two Scots, and been interviewed by NPR about this subject.

Another parallel between us is our attitude toward some politicians. Lawrence once said, "There may be honor among thieves, but there's none in politicians." That surely was true in Great Britain and in the States. I cannot believe what Congress is doing because some do not like or agree with healthcare reform. We are the last Western country without universal healthcare. The first country was Norway in 1912.

I use this quote on all my emails for decades: "Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not." Bobby Kennedy used his famous quote often. It is how I function in life. Lawrence said something very similar, "All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." We both followed our dreams.

One other parallel between Lawrence and me is that we tell the truth. I have not achieved all of my dreams. However, this is what General Allenby said of Lawrence, "There is no other man I know who could have achieved what Lawrence did. As for taking undue credit for himself, my own personal experience with Lawrence is that he was utterly unconcerned whether any kudos was awarded him or not."

Winston Churchill said of Lawrence, "I deem him one of the greatest beings alive in our time... We shall never see his like again. His name will live in history. It will live in the annals of war... It will live in the legends of Arabia."

Granted, I have not achieved as much as what Lawrence achieved, but I am still alive. I have plans and hopes for especially Scotland. The Scots will vote on independence on September 18, 2014. This is what Lawrence said of rebellion:

It seemed that rebellion must have an unassailable base, something guarded not merely from attack, but from the fear of it: such a base as we had in the Red Sea Parts, the desert, or in the minds of the men we converted to our creed. It must have a sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation too small to fulfil the doctrine of acreage: too few to adjust number to space, in order to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts. It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent. active in a striking force, and 98 per cent. passively sympathetic. The few active rebels must have the qualities of speed and endurance, ubiquity and independence of arteries of supply. They must have the technical equipment to destroy or paralyse the enemy's organized communications...

In one of my many articles about Scottish independence, I wrote about what I saw when I returned to Scotland. It parallels what Lawrence saw in Arabia and what I saw in Scotland. I had lived in Scotland back in the late 60s. However, things have changed a great deal in the Scottish mindset. Forty-five years ago, only a few old-timers talked about independence in Scotland. However, now about a third are for it, a third against it, and a third have not really thought much about it.

The Scots, who want to regain their political sovereignty that they had prior to 1707 and back in Roman times, need to remember this lesson from America. In 1776 when America declared their independence from England, only 10-15% of the colonists wanted freedom from England. Nonetheless, they were willing to fight for it. We were not English possessions and neither are the Scots.

Finally, Lawrence taught me to use creativity in more than merely in art. His band to Arabs attacked the Turkish invaders on July 6, 1917 by traveling across the vast desert to the coastal town of Aqaba. The Turks were not expecting an attack from the desert, because few would transverse that long, arduous, and hot route to the coast.

Lawrence in 1917

Lawrence in 1917

Therefore, I learned from Lawrence to study the situation logically and then apply creativity to a problem. I have done that with the Scottish independence movement. I read about it long before even writing about it. Then I started writing about it a year before going back to Scotland. I spent a month there talking to anyone who would share his or her thoughts about the independence movement. Then I came home and went back to work writing and speaking about it to anyone who would listen. I have used my website and Facebook to get that information out to Americans but more importantly to Scots. I am not finished. There are 11-months for work that lies ahead for me. However, I am energized by my task.

Another task that lies before me is to go to Burma in two months to see what that emerging country is attempting to do. Aung San Suu Kyi's father told the British (interestingly it was again the British) to leave the Burmese nation. This time the British left. Aung San Suu Kyi has taken on her father's political work to make Burma and its people free.

There is much to do in both Scotland and Burma, but I am committed to doing what I can do. Lawrence did it in many places including Aqaba. I have done what I can do in Scotland and will do the same in Burma.

While I want my readers to understand about Lawrence, Scotland, and Burma, I want them also to understand that mentors influence who we are and what we think is important in life. My final thought: Choose wisely your mentors.

T. E. Lawrence

T. E. Lawrence


Bobby Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy

Visit the Bobby Kennedy page to read more about this topic.

Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.

Scottish independence: Yes campaign

Scottish independence flag

Visit the Scottish Independence page to read more about this topic.

An old man and his grandson

An Old Man and His Grandson

Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.