Or, in Oedipus the King, which we have been discussing in my senior class lately, you find Creon asking why their country is plagued with troubles and how they can overcome these problems.
For all the standards in all the states, there is no such standard for "knowing thyself." In a few months, when we read Hamlet, Polonius will tell his son that he must "above all: to thine own self be true."
One must, of course, know thyself before one can be true to it. Yet can we reasonbably expect 18-year-olds to know themselves? To have the courage it takes to be true to those selves? Hardly. And how do we know or come to create that self? By testing it against the world through which we move and finding someone who can guide us on that journey.
The other day my senior son Whit was working with a coach who was trying to find his limits, then talking to him about how to push those limits further and further out from where they are now, in the process creating the strength and stamina he will need for his next self.
A couple years ago, I had a young man in one of my senior classes, one without any compass other than his evident intelligence and obvious goodness. To say he lost himself during that year would imply he knew himself, and he did not. And he understood that. Realized he needed to first find, then forge, that next self.
So he set out to hike the Pacific Coast Trail by himself. That was 2200 miles ago. This week he is slated, after overcoming all manner of obstacles along the way, to complete his journey, becoming the youngest person ever to hike the entire trail solo. He realized he needed to become his own teacher, his own guide.
Back in July of 1985, as I sat all day atop the mountain there at Delphi, I wondered what the oracles would tell me about the years to come. I was not yet a teacher. I was not yet a husband or a father. I was not yet an author. I was a Peace Corps volunteer traveling on my summer break.
When I came down from that mountain, and returned to Tunisia, where a telegram was waiting for me, telling me to go to Paris to meet Susan, who would travel from Japan the following week. We had known each other since high school. But in 1979 I was just a kid, not unlike my former student, who did not know himself.
And so I would go to Paris where I would meet up with Susan who, more than anyone, would help me come to know myself. Ah, but that is another story for another time....