Chapter 3Self-Knowledge

The Center

Somewhere in the midst of the wine-dark sea, according to Homer, lies the island of Ogygia. Odysseus met there the nymph Calypso, who enchanted him with her singing and detained him for seven years. She offered Odysseus immortality if he would stay. But he longed to return to his wife and family, so eventually Zeus, the father of the gods, ordered Calypso to let him go.

Homer calls Ogygia the omphalos or “navel” of the sea (Odyssey XIX.172). Calypso's name, in turn, means “hiding or hidden.” The implication is that Ogygia is a spiritual center, a place that connects life with the unseen source of life.

The Greeks called Delphi, at the foot of Mount Parnassus, the omphalos or navel of the land. Neither Odysseus nor Telemachus visited Delphi, but if they had, they would have found an ancient holy place, which in time was dedicated to the god Apollo. Over the door of his temple was written the command, Gnothi Sauton: “Know Thyself.”

This central chapter takes up that command, with special attention to knowing yourself as a member of the rising generation. In the two prior chapters, we spoke about your situation generally. Now we want to encourage you to reflect on yourself as an individual. This reflection will provide the foundation for your growth and flourishing, which we will address further in Chapters 4 and 5 and the Conclusion.

Sometimes people criticize the pursuit of self-knowledge as navel-gazing. We do not mean to encourage you to ...

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