My friend John Jantunen launched his new book last night, a novel called Cipher, well worth a read, and there were quite a few people there to celebrate with him. I was particularly enjoying myself, because I had no responsibilities for the event, so I could just have a couple $2 pints and chat with the other guests.
At one point I had a chance to talk at length with an established publisher who was kind enough to answer some questions for me and to take an interest in what we’re doing at Vocamus Press. Then, as our conversation was finishing, two young men came to introduce themselves and ask about what was involved with Vocamus, and I found myself abruptly switching my role from student to mentor in the time it took me to turn from one conversation to the next.
On my way home after the event, I had a chance to reflect on the evening, and it struck me that this moment of being both student and mentor embodied a principle that is essential to the formation of a strong and developing community. When we become too proud and isolated to learn from each other, when we become too arrogant and protective to teach each other, our community ceases to grow. In order for us to develop as individuals and as communities, we must constantly be teaching and learning, encouraging and challenging. If it can happen naturally, over a pint or two, so much the better.