Gnothi Seauton

Summers, escaping the heat of our somewhat Southern city, I descended to the dim, parquet-floored family room of our suburban split-level. The cool air settled there. Beneath the chandelier Dad and I designed, perched on a stool at the squat teak and marble Chinese coffee table, I wandered page by page through the Unabridged Webster’s New World Dictionary.

At age eight, the entry, “Gnothi seauton” jumped out: know thyself, a Delphic adage of Ancient Greece from the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo, precursor of Socrates’ maxim “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

The curious rendition in Greek alphabet, which I can’t reproduce here, and the unfamiliar sound sequences seduced me: gnothi seauton became my mantra, my raison d’être in a household that left me constantly trying to justify my continuing existence to myself. For my experiences indicated the other family members recognized no intrinsic right to existence in me.