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Building the Pyramids

When I was a boy, my mother brought me to summer classes for kids at Brown College. The first class I took was "Clowning". Yep. I went to clown college. --where I learned about make-up, magic, and making people laugh. Very fun class though I don't clown much anymore.

Every summer I enjoyed different classes and one of my favorites was on ancient Egypt. I learned how they made paper from the papyrus plant, studied their kings and gods, and wrote my name in hieroglyphics.


The thing (or things) that drew me to want to study Egypt were these giant monuments built in the desert. The Egyptian people reshaped the earth--forever changing the topography so that no one could forget they existed. The great pyramid in Giza (the pyramid of Khufu) was the largest man-made structure until the 20th century!

Pyramid and Sphinx

Can you imagine how many people it took to build them? For perspective, it took a crew of 1,100 over 3 years to build the US Bank stadium in Minneapolis (2016). The stadium is less than half the size of the great pyramid in Giza (481 ft)--granted it's a different complexity. But the great pyramid in Giza (the pyramid of Khufu) is 34 feet taller than the Foshay Tower--which was the tallest building in Minneapolis until 1972.


Well, it's great to know that the with such sustaining results--still structurally sound after nearly 4,500 years--the Egyptians must have provided great wages! (Not to mention healthcare and a 5% match on their 401K plan)

Well.. Actually...

There are two schools of thought on who built the pyramids. The first thought--the traditional thought--is salves. No wages, no 401K. Just dragging stone day in and day out for 10-20 years to build Khufu's pyramid. And the reward for their effort? Their royalty--whom they considered gods--were remembered in the most monumental tombs ever erected.

Hundreds of thousands of people (likely) devoted their lives to servant their pharaoh. Isn't it wonderful to have a mission? To know day in and day out what's expected of you. And if you're serving your God? Then there's nothing better or more fulfilling. At the end of their lives they had a giant pyramids to show for it.

I wonder what those people would say if I asked them about their lives. I wonder if I went to one person, what they would say. Do you think it would be one of the below?

- "I helped build the pyramids."

- "I built this part of this pyramid--here's the section I worked on."

- "I spent my life serving my god and king; surely I will have glory in the afterlife."

What other comments could you expect from slaves? They had no choice. How do you keep going without hope for something different? You have to find a reason--just a s a human being--to keep going.

Now there's another school of thought, that perhaps the pyramid builders were a separate sect of society that we housed and fed as rotating teams*. Do you know how many pyramids have been built in Egypt alone? Over 100. During a span of 2,000 years that ended 600 years before Christ. I wonder if I asked these people, who allegedly lived in their own city--set apart from other Egyptians, took similar pride in their work? Of course, if the pyramid builders made the choice to work on these structure, then perhaps they had some skills that they could use. So they might be able to boast about design methods developed or improved...

- "I designed the ramp system that allowed Egypt to build their greatest architectural achievements."

But I wonder, if some people might have chosen to build pyramids just because it was seen as an honor? Or perhaps they even strove to want to build the pyramids just because there friends were doing it. Or because it was what their parents wanted them to do. Or maybe just because there was work to do--and,well, it was a job. Maybe they'd say...

- "I married, had seven children, loved to run and ride horses. Build pyramids was just my day job."

But what if they really wanted to get out and see the world? Travel north across the Mediterranean Sea to explore distant lands... But were tied to their day job. Then maybe they'd say...

- "I wasted my whole life building someone else's dream."

How about you? Do you relate to any of the above statements?

- Do you identify yourself by the work you get paid for--or particular projects you've worked on?

- Do you take pride in your piece of the project?

- Are you working for honor? (In this life or the next?)

- Do you live a life you love and see work as a necessary burden?

- Do you feel like your giving all your efforts just to prop up someone's dream?

In the next post we'll talk about a different kind of pyramid.

A Pyramid Scheme.

*Research archaeologist, Mark Lehner for more on the people who built the pyramids.

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