From Delfi with love

An introspective Open Dialogue Cafe

Open Dialogue Cafe by its nature always stimulates and promotes debate about various topics: the last workshop about Emotional Intelligence lead by José Carlos León Fernández gave us amazing proof. As highlighted by Chloé DeAntoni, a volunteer of Open Dialogue Cafe, sometimes the theories about emotional intelligence, which is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions, are used in our own interests, as a justification for being more selfish.

The debate started as the speaker José Carlos, who worked as a coach, facilitator and coordinator of formative events focusing on this topic, stated the importance and the urgency of thinking firstly about ourselves and after about the people that surround us. He suggested the audience to be selfish in their own lives and the question made by Chloé inspired him an introspective article published on Cordopolis.

The article starts with a memory of José related to a philosophical lesson with Padre Gonzalo when he first heard the Ancient Greek aphorism Gnothi seauton – Γνώθι σαυτόν, explaining how this principle is related to Delfi:

“The pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi welcomed all visitors with two inscriptions that explained clearly what they could find there. One was Meden agan, “nothing in excess”, a recommendation for restraint and the rejection of excesses. The other message to the visitors was Gnothi seauton, which means “know yourself.” Socrates interpreted it as a reminder of human limitations, in order to not compare oneself with the gods, although beyond that, the aphorism has remained as the definitive guide to self-knowledge, introspection and internal observation. At the beginning of everything, there is the self before all the rest.”

José explains that since almost 30.000 years people used to go to Delfi to ask questions of vital importance, to know the future and ask for wise advice, however, no matter the kind of question of the visitors, the answer that they would get was always the same: “The first thing you should do is looking for the answers inside yourself!”.

“Just 30 years ago, Howard Gardner described in his theory of multiple intelligences that to explain the talents of any person, one had to look at two major areas: intrapersonal and interpersonal. Years later (1990), Salovey and Meyer took the lead to unite both and coin the term that today is known as Emotional Intelligence, defining the two major fields in which the management of emotions has to be handled: from an internal point of view and from a social perspective.”

The expert José also explored how caring and loving oneself is deeply encouraged also in the Christian religion, where its 10 commandments are often summarised in the principle: “Love your neighbours AS yourself”, thus there are no suggestions of loving other people more than oneself, even though during the years in the Greek-Latin and Jewish-Christian traditions the concept of thinking about one’s needs is often related to committing a sin.

“Even the RAE (Royal Spanish Academy) keeps on affirming today that selfishness is “immoderate and excessive love of oneself, which causes disproportionate attention to one’s own interest without taking care of others.” It may be a cultural issue, because if in the United States you say that you are not selfish and ambitious, they will take away your Green card in one fell swoop. It is perhaps a question of semantics and perspective, but it all starts with oneself. Gnothi seauton, this is where everything starts. Don’t look for answers outside, because you probably have them hidden closer than you think, where you have never dared to look. “

José Carlos concludes the article regretting that he did not pay enough attention during the class of Padre Gonzalo 30 years ago, however, the ODC community is extremely content to have internalised all his inspiring tips shared on Wednesday, February 3rd. It is delightful to see how even a virtual dialogue can be the input of a further reflection.