My oldest brother Ruseell currently teaches Philosophy at Elmhurst College in Chicago. He is six years older than me, beat the crap out of me (like all older brothers I’m told) when we were young, is my half brother through my Mom, and is still a great friend.
I had to wait on writing about brothers (next older brother will be forthcoming) because it is difficult to narrow mentoring when there is this much context.
Latter day additions to our relationship include the seeming ability to talk about anything, a psychological dialogue as we are both pretty reflective and pretty okay being reflective, and hacking sessions where Mom takes us to school on the golf course.
The formative moment that comes to mind is maybe my 11th or 12th birthday he gave me three books – the first 3 books in the Xanth series by Piers Anthony: A Spell for Chameleon, The Source of Magic, and Castle Roogna (I went on to read maybe 15 Xanth books, and probably 20 other Anthony books; especially enjoying the Apprentice Adept series). I don’t know how intentional his choice was, but I know it got me reading and reading series’. As I moved around fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction (also very dependent upon my Mom and Step-Mom who saw a good desire and always fueled it), etc I would compare it with the books on his shelves. I remember wondering if Asimov’s series Foundation was okay (it was), Dune, and probably my favorite from this genre Ender’s War.
The second moment I recall was when I began learning things he knew nothing about – in this case, Hebrew (undergrad, yep, I am a dork who took Hebrew in undergrad). I remember it because I passed a significant threshold in our relationship and conversation could now happen at a different level. But really I was mentored to desire that threshold. Do you know what I mean? My brother always read well, in and out of school, did well in school (to my knowledge anyway), and was interested in spirited conversation about what he was learning and could learn from others.
So, the importance of the Hebrew moment was that it later impressed a Bridesmaid (She was Jewish, and when I found this out I recited Genesis 1:1 on the spot). I mean, the importance was that Russ mentored me to care about learning, education, my mind, and the ability to dialogue respectfully but thoughtfully.
So – love of reading, love of education and dialogue. With these, the lasting effect is one where I am not afraid of ideas. I have always been confused when doubt is portrayed a certain way by religious folk. Definitions are probably part of this equation, but I have just never been worried about ‘falling’ into some erroneous doctrine, some fact or lack thereof that would dismantle my epistemology (way of believing), theology, or overall world view. Some of this comes from a professor I had in college also, but I think Russ set me up for success – with people, ideas, dialogue, and learning in general. I can’t remember how into Facebook he is anymore, but Russ, if you read this, Thanks!