Pyramid Principles for Life

At times the journey feels awkward or perilous: you’re asking questions that everyone wishes would go away; you don’t know how to put into words what you’re searching for; you’re wondering just how big an idiot you really are for leaving what felt sure and safe and comfortable.
— Paul H. Ray, PhD and Sherry Ruth Anderson, PhD, The Cultural Creatives

...It is safe to say that men [and women] have been seeking an answer to the riddle of the Great Pyramid for over 4000 years...

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the Great Pyramid. A testament to human ingenuity, the Great Pyramid is the only remaining structure of the Seven Wonders of the World. Believed to have been built in 2600 BC, it was originally encased in highly polished limestone that reflected sunlight, making the pyramid visible from vast distances. According to some calculations, the casing stones of the original pyramid would have reflected light like giant mirrors, so powerful that it would be visible from the moon.

Appropriately, the ancient Egyptians called the Great Pyramid 'Ikhat,' meaning 'Glorious Light.' In fact, the word pyramid is composed of the Greek words pyra meaning fire, light or visible and midas meaning measures, and has been loosely translated as fire in the middle.

Despite tremendous interest, study, and speculation, to my knowledge, researchers have yet to definitively determine how or why the pyramid was built. Its construction and intended purpose have confounded archeologists, architects, mathematicians and engineers from around the world. The most accurately aligned structure in existence, its construction is unprecedented.

The height of a forty-eight-story building, it could house thirty Empire State buildings within its interior. Less than a fiftieth of an inch separates the blocks, and the joints between adjacent blocks fit together with optical precision. The chemical composition of the cement that was used defies chemical analysis. Even with the technological advances of our time, many researchers doubt that the pyramid could be built today.

And what of its use? Theories range from the mundane to sublime, functional to fantastical, historical to science-fictional. Some believe that it was a tomb and passageway into the great beyond, a place of death and rebirth where the physical and spiritual intersect. From an Egyptian ritual space to an astronomical observatory, a great sundial to a repository for ancient knowledge, a water irrigation system to a communication device realms beyond, conjecture abounds. It remains one of the most enduring mysteries of the ages.

Years later, the Great Pyramid still stirs my imagination. 

Lately, I've been thinking about the parallels between constructing a worthwhile and enduring structure for living, and building a pyramid. Life-construction is a confounding responsibility that requires well-balanced design, substantial effort, constant dedication, and considerable support.

None of us are quite sure how to go about doing it, but we know that it is possible. We witness other valuable lives in wonder, uncertain of our abilities to create this for ourselves, yet filled with an unavoidable yearning to create something somehow more...beautiful, fulfilling, lasting. If we're lucky, even in our darkest moments when the mere possibility is beyond imagination or comprehension, we recognize this responsibility to become, despite ourselves, unavoidably and utterly valuable

We realize that we are worthy of becoming worthwhile. Perhaps, like all the travelers who came before us, catching a glimpse of the glorious light reflected in the distance, we find ourselves compelled to venture into the unknown to experience the magnificent.  Like ancient architects, we discover within us both the vision and the courage to build the impossible...or at least die trying (and if we're good human beings, we don't sacrifice others to build our lives). 

Yet, many of us design our lives without thinking; we live by default. It's often surprising how little thought goes into our methods for building a life, especially when we consider that we devote our entire lives to doing just that. We will all die trying.  

Here's a thought experiment:

Imagine your life as a great pyramid. Imagine yourself as architect of your own great pyramid. The materials for this pyramid are your intentions, actions, relationships, and resources.

Like all pyramids, yours must have four equally important sides. One side must be built with what you know, another with what you do, a third with what you have, and a fourth with whom you know.

As architect of this pyramid, certain design principles are instantly clear to you: 1) it must be built from the bottom; 2) the higher you go, the more interdependence required; and 3) without a strong foundation, the pyramid collapses. In other words, you may begin building your pyramid from any side, but the more it grows in height, the more dependent it is on the other sides for support, and without a strong foundation any work begun is reduced to rubble.

Principle One: It must be built from the bottom.  

So if you've hit bottom, congratulations! You're in the perfect position to create a wonderful life...and if you haven't hit bottom, just pay attention, so that if it happens you'll be better prepared.

A life is built from the ground up one layer at a time.  We have to discover the ground of who we are and the nature of our reality, and build from there.

Principle Two: The higher you go, the more interdependence required.

To successfully develop one aspect of our lives, we must also simultaneously attend to the other aspects of our lives. When we focus on one area of our development at the expense of the others, we experience imbalance.

We have all been there at one time or another. We know who we are, but we hate what we do. We do wonderful work, but go home to an empty house. We have wonderful relationships, but no real career path. We have lots of stuff, but don't know what we want. The more we develop, the more we recognize and require interdependence among the various aspects of our lives.

Principle Three: Without a strong foundation, the pyramid collapses.

Strong foundations begin with balanced design. Crisis occurs when imbalance is prolonged. During times of crisis, it is not uncommon to find ourselves amidst the rubble wondering what happened.

We have all heard stories about people who have "everything" at the expense of personal well-being, relationships, or fulfillment in their careers. Workaholics come home to divorce papers. Shopaholics come home to bills. The love struck self-destruct at work. Without a conscious effort to build our lives holistically, whatever success we experience in one area will be short-lived. Whatever success we pursue in life will fall short if we fail to attend to all the areas that make life valuable.

So my musings about pyramids today yielded this basic insight:

Lives are created from the bottom up on a strong foundation of interdependence.

Feel free to add your insights...