Some ancient Greek, with stone hammer and sharp chisel, carved Gnōthi Seauton
into the marble lintel at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. I wonder…was he pounding out an admonition, or simply offering sound advice?Gnōthi Seauton
– Know Thyself!
Five and a half decades into this, and I still can’t claim to know myself. I’m slowly getting there, though. Given time enough, experience enough, trials and errors enough, I just might come to know myself well enough to know who I really am, what I essentially need, and what I truly want. I don’t want to die a mystery to myself.
This is no casual endeavor. A lot rides on knowing oneself. If nothing else, knowing oneself protects the innocent. I daresay, behind every broken lover’s vow (assuming, of course, good faith at the start) is someone who does not know himself/herself (quite often, there are two confused souls at work). A promise, a vow, a troth or pledge presumes (at the very least) a rudimentary understanding of one’s own capabilities and will; at least a smattering of familiarity with one’s heart, mind and soul. The promissor owes at least that much to the promissee. Sigh. I’ve failed others in that regard. Others have, in turn, failed me. Well...as they say...karma’s a bitch.
I guess I just cast a vote for admonition.
But, speaking of karma, how about a vote for sound advice? What if it’s true, what the Buddhists say...that wisdom purifies the mind, that mastering one’s mind leads to enlightenment, and that enlightenment leads to the end of suffering? What if...what if the Gnostics were correct in preaching that God and Heaven reside within each of us? “Know thyself
” then, becomes sound advice…in fact, far, far
more, than just sound advice…
If I knew myself better, I might be able to tell you who is right. As it stands, I can only puzzle and ponder.
Know Thyselfby Alexander Pope
* * *
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act or rest,
In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast,
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such
Whether he thinks too little or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
* * *Great Oracle moment
It is said the Oracle at Delphi proclaimed Socrates
to be the wisest man in Greece, to which Socrates replied that, if so, it was because he alone was aware of his own ignorance.
* * *