Inscribed on the walls of the Temple of Apollo, where the Oracle of Delphi dispensed wisdom to the ancient Greeks, was the simple yet powerful directive, “Know Thyself.” It is difficult, if not impossible, to discover the absolute truth about many physical and spiritual phenomenon in the universe. But upon deep introspection, a person can learn a great deal about his or her own self.
As a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, I have a habit of asking questions of myself in an effort to discover who I am and what I am capable of. For example: Can I eat twelve Doritos Locos Tacos or an entire bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken in one sitting? (Yes.) Will I ever again? (Absolutely not.)
Throughout my life, I have challenged myself in various ways in order to assess my mental and physical prowess. In third grade, I wanted to see if I had the stamina to write numbers 1 through 10,000 on a ream of unlined Manilla paper. (I accomplished my goal, although in hindsight I can see now that spending weeks on such an undertaking was not a great way to make friends at my new school.) In college I endeavored to chew an entire bag—51 pieces—of chalky, sugary, and rock-hard Pal bubble gum. (The sugar rush left me with a harsher buzz than Tequila Night in my fraternity house ever did.)
Recently, my focus has switched from pulling attention-seeking stunts such as seeing how fast I can eat an entire box of Thin Mints, (7 minutes, 3 seconds), to finding ways to improve my health, like giving booze the boot and exercising regularly. I have lost over 16 pounds so far in 2017, despite my wife bringing home six boxes of Girl Scout cookies last week, and I feel better than I have in decades.
Although I have made some much-needed changes to my lifestyle lately, there is still one habit I need to break. I watch WAY too much television: at least five hours per night on average. So my latest challenge is this: for the month of March, I will abstain from watching television (with one notable exception, the NCAA basketball tournament.) Aside from “March Madness,” there is little else on TV worth my time this month. My favorite new series, “Taboo” on FX, starring Tom Hardy, will be on hiatus, and opening day for Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals isn’t until April 2. Besides, I can think of several more worthwhile uses of my time than staring at a screen (albeit a glorious, 70 inch, high-definition screen) for five hours every day.
I could be playing with my kids, talking with my wife, or writing the Great American Novel. I could be out cruising around in my Bel Air or walking my dogs. I could visit friends. I could read a book or three. I could even train for my first-ever 5k race.
A 5k race, you say?! Yes, I have agreed to let Bethany sign me up for a charity 5k run on April 1st (no foolin’), which means that I apparently have a challenge already picked out for the month of April, too. I’ve been Bethany’s cheerleader at countless races in the past, and never have I been tempted to join her. But that was when I was an out-of-shape lush. Now? Well just look at me: I’m fit and I’m gorgeous! Exercise and sobriety obviously agree with me.
A few well-meaning people have questioned my decision to stop drinking. “Oh, you’re not a REAL alcoholic,” they say. Or, “Can’t you just cut back a little?” Well, the truth is that I have heeded the advice of the Oracle of Delphi and gotten to know myself pretty well over the last several years. And I know that I am a real alcoholic and that I can’t just cut back a little. No, my dependence on alcohol did not cost me my job or my family, but it certainly could have.
I’m fairly certain what the answer would be if I were to ask Pythia the Oracle, “Should a person wait to make changes in their life until AFTER they lose everything dear to them?”
The seven years and thousands of dollars I spent getting a degree in philosophy may finally be paying off.