When Socrates was put on trial in Ancient Athens for corrupting the youth of the city, he allegedly uttered this famous phrase:
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
This was derived from one of one of the most important of the Delphic Maxims:
Whenever a visitor passed through the gates at the Temple of Delphi, they would see a set of maxims inscribed high above. These wise sayings were meant to guide their life and to show them the key elements that they should focus on.
In order to live a fulfilled life, the ancient philosophers believed that you need to constantly be examining your life and finding out about yourself. According to them, this was one of the most important tasks, ranking higher than most other things.
It is not only the philosophers that engage in this type of activity. It is a natural tendency of all humans to question their place in this world and to try to maximize their potential.
Who am I and where am I going? People’s life is a quest to find the answers to these questions.
They want to know who they are deep down and what they are capable of.
The most important parts of hero’s journeys are the ones where the hero seeks and finds answers to these questions.
The descent of the hero into the innermost cave marks their realization of who they really are, both in the positive and negative sense and is the turning point in finding out what they are capable of doing. This forms the basis of some of the most heroic actions that they do later on.
It is not only heroes that test themselves, but ordinary humans do it too, in the process sometimes becoming heroes. Especially in the modern age, when technological and societal progress has removed some of the life and death challenges that tested the humans of long ago, this push to test yourself is something that drives many.