The recent nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the hearings that followed underline the need in this day and age to remember the advice etched in gold above the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi: Know thyself. If anyone ever needed to heed that ancient advice, Judge Sotomayor certainly did as she suddenly found herself under the lens of a political microscope probing every crevice of her life, career and mind.
President Barack Obama’s choice seemed clearly consistent with his vision of America. Once made, however, it was out of his hands and the judge found herself at the center of the age-old process of Senate confirmation hearings. On her own, Judge Sotomayor had to know her sense of self, her very identity faced serious challenges.
As should we know as well these days.
Our world seems to be shrinking and imploding all at once. People, a planet full, are connecting and mixing with contagious technologies. Mileage is disappearing as a measure of distance. The Internet highway makes it a matter of mere seconds to connect with someone – live and face-to-face – on the other side of the world. Texting is inventing a brand new, almost numerical language, and “twitterers” are creating and expanding instant networks. All of the above, and whatever is coming next, is challenging everyone to hang on to the truth of self, not to get lost in technology or, worse, get left behind. Fortunately, the wisdom of the ancients transcends all of that.
Knowing oneself demands both honesty and clarity. To know the truth of self, one must first accept who and how one is. One needs to know and own one’s story in order to find a definition of self that is not distorted – neither bloated nor diminished – but humble in its humanness. That is where clarity comes in. Ideally, self should define self. As long as one remains clear about and accepting of that truth, no technology, media, spotlight or even political microscope should be able to distort it.
Judge Sotomayor seems to be very comfortable in her own skin, aware of her own truths and humbly unapologetic for her own person and life story. Like President Obama himself, she gives living testimony to what this land offers and can nurture as long as one is willing to stay with the truth of self, accepting the responsibilities of his or her talents and dreams.
Naming and maintaining one’s identity is just as difficult now as it was in ancient times. It is not a matter of technology but rather, maturity. Growth happens from the inside out. And inside is where identity lives.