Nosce Te Ipsum
Adam B. Clausen
Professor Tony Gaskew, Ph.D.
October 25, 2012
Abstract: This paper is a brief reflection and encapsulation of the events and circumstances that have influenced me to become the man I am today. I can sincerely say that I "know thyself" better today than ever before, and that, I believe, is a very good beginning.
There is an inscription deeply inscribed into the stone at the Delphi which has resonated throughout the ages. "Nosce Te Ipsum" succinctly instructs each person to "know thyself" and it has inspired philosophers to ponder the phrase for centrues. Unfortunately, introspection is not as noble a pursuit today as it once was due to the current "results driven" nature of the world in which we live. Few people believe they possess the time to seriously consider such a dictum nowadays and most are probably correct in that assumption. There are, however, those of us who have chosen to lead a certain type of life where long stretches of quiet contemplation are still quite common. Monks occasionally retreat to their monasteries and, similarly, we prisoners escape to the solitude of our cells.
The nearly 17 years I have spent in prison have taught me a great deal about myself, not all of it positive. Honestly, much of it is embarrassing and difficult to openly admit to anyone. My past is filled with stories of squandered opportunities and unfulfilled potential, punctuated by glimpses of athletic greatness. Admitting that I needed to return to prison in order to finally discover and truly know myself was painful. I wish that I could take back the past and re-write my life story, erasing all the pain and suffering that I caused so many people throughout my life, but I cannot. There is no going back at this point, only forward, and I do so with my head raised and eyes fixed on the horizon.
Everyone experiences their own "alpha" and "omega" points as they travel through this life, but few are able to pause long enough to identify and recognize each of them. It is truly amazing to consider how impactful a singular event can be in the course of a person's life. I have compiled a list of those points and none of them has been more impactful that my serendipitous discovery of "The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire" written by "my man" Deepak Chopra. That book was clearly meant to fall into my hands and the events which have transpired from that day forward seem to have been scripted for my success. Each passing month, and then year, has revealed new depths to my own character despite the pervasive negativity that has often surrounded me. Eventually, I was granted an opportunity to break free from those prison-based politics that bound me within that environment.
The ensuing years of quasi-liberation at a medium security facility have given me an opportunity to delve much deeper into the origin of my issues. These days, I am my own harshest critic, but at the same time, I no longer dwell upon the mistakes of my youth. Now that people have begun to address me as "sir" I can no longer attempt to refer to myself as a "young man," and therefore, I cannot use my "youth" as an excuse for any mistakes, and that is not necessarily such a bad thing. Along with age should come some wisdom, and my life story would suggest that I have accumulated at least a few useful tidbits of hard earned knowledge along the way.
Only six weeks ago my daily routine revolved almost entirely around my personal health and well-being. I taught fitness classes daily up in the Recreation Department and had no knowledge of what took place down the hill inside the Education Department. For two and a half years that routine was most conducive to my personal growth and development. Then one day it occurred to me that I greatly missed engaging in intelligent conversations which I had enjoyed back in the federal penitentiary. As a means of igniting a similar interest amongst some of my fellow inmates, I asked my girlfriend to send me the latest edition of "Word Smart," an old favorite, by "The Princeton Review." Before the book had even arrived, I was unexpectedly invited to join the "Inside Out Program" and subsequently introduced to a group of men and women brimming with intelligent thoughts that each was eager to share. Many of the inside students, whose company I now enjoy on a daily basis, have become close friends and confidants in a relatively brief amount of time. Each time I think I know myself better than ever before another layer of myself is revealed to me.
Everyone who now knows me or knows of me will say that I am a "good guy." What that means to anyone on the inside is that I can go to any federal prison across this country and I'll be met with open arms. This is on account of the reputation I forged for myself throughout the years in the federal penitentiary. I am known not only as "the guy with 213 years" but also as "the fitness guru who teaches all those classes in Recreation." Some guys have even called me "the fittest man in the BOP." One thing that everyone knows is that I am passionate about health and fitness. Becoming a teacher allowed me to share that passion with other men, and in doing so, it also taught me a great deal more about myself. I cannot conceive how I might have become the man I am today under any other circumstances, so for that I am eternally grateful.
Time right now seems to be on my side, as ironic as that may sound. My life is good. The smile on my face is genuine and it radiates from my heart. I have the unconditional love and support of my family and good friends. Every morning I am excited to get up and face whatever challenges, physical or mental, await me. I realize that the things I say or do each day have the potential to positively influence the men around me and thus make my life seem more meaningnful. No matter where all this may lead me, I will always remain true to myself by reflecting on the phrase, Nosce Te Ipsum, without fail at the beginning and end of each day.