167 // Developing Empathy With Mental Illness (Kind of)

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Pharoah Khufu was an ambition guy, he commissioned the construction of the biggest and tallest man made structure of the time. A structure which wouldn’t be beaten in height for over 3,300 years. It is impressive for a number of reasons, firstly the socioeconomic situation at the time was dire. I mean there were problems with crime, social mobility, education, transport, corruption and the list goes on*. How Herr. Khufu managed to get the required public funding through parliament for a pyramid which would only be used to house his own dead body I’ll never know. Boris Johnson couldn’t even get a Garden Bridge built in London, and that was for public use.

Aside from the impressive misuse of public funds, the average age of a man in ancient Egypt at that time was 34 years old, and this Pyramid would take 20 years to build. So thats a man with some serious confidence in his own ability not to be average. Also it should be noted that this pyramid was built 2,500 years before our pal JC was sent down here by his Dad, and it was 2,000 years before the first crane was invented.

The lack of crane is important because, given the size of the project, and the time in which it was constructed, it meant there had to be 12 blocks placed correctly every single hour for 20 years. With each block weighing an average of 2.4 tons – that isn’t bad going at all.

Now, I don’t know if Monsieur Khufu was a hands on project manager or if he delegated a lot of the responsibilities to others, but I suspect the latter. According to reports, he was caught doing the Egyptian Enquirer crossword puzzle on more than one occasion*. They do always say though; a good project manager hires the right people… or enslaves 100,000 men with the threat of death in the case of non-compliance.

Life for the construction slaves was tough, Mr. Khufu flaunted health and safety legislation and refused to engage with the unions on issues such as pay, working hours or breaks. It was a genuinely tough life and often a very short one, tough conditions with no recompense, and worst of all they were building something they would not even be allowed to use, ever.

I can relate to this.

You see, I have been renovating my apartment here in Vienna for almost a year now, and the crux of the renovation has been the original parquet floor in the kitchen. It was left undone for many months but as I am moving out next week it needs to be finished for the next tenant. Scraping, scraping, sanding, sanding, more scraping, more sanding, varnishing, sanding, varnish, it never ends.


It is difficult for us humans to empathise with other people because we can’t feel what they feel. We can’t truly know what they’re going through, and this project has opened my eyes. When you walk in someone else’s shoes, you gain a new perspective on life and I’m grateful to have seen through the eyes of an Egyptian slave.

OK, admittedly, I have been paid, and I could work when I wanted to, and I had no threat of violence against me, nor did I have to go hungry, and I could also go to the bathroom when I wanted. Plus my kitchen is approximately 6 square meters, around 52,994 square meters less than the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

On a serious note, I am mightly relieved that is now over. I’m proud of course and I feel good – every time I do something myself I get this feeling. I just wish the pay off was a bit sooner. I mean God (definitely) created the world in 7 days, women give birth in 9 months and apparantly it takes me 10 to strip and varnish a floor.

Paul Green

*Lets file that in the ‘Wild unsubstantiated claims, which are probably true’ drawer.

*That lie is definitely true.

Read more, its good for you.

#134 Illegal – ‘Taking Drugs’

#124 Morality – ‘How Do We Know What Is Right Or Wrong?’

Always There: A Stranger and Mindfump.


  1. S. Hansen

    You know historians think there were a few types of slaves in Ancient Egypt. Generally they split into two kinds. The ones that had to earn their keep because they were criminals/spoils of war/debtors, and the ones that were conscripted.
    The ones that had to earn their keep were given food and shelter for their service, the conscripted ones were actually paid, although they didn’t have much choice about the job…
    So really as you were paid you were a conscripted Egyptian slave.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. bipolarsojourner

    that’s one of the advantages of be a deity like pharoah khufu, You didn’t have check with any representative body before building a monument to yourself. i mean, you’re only one step below ra.

    just think, if you were like mr. khufu, you could have enslaved thousands of people and made them to work to all hours of night.* your project would have been done by the first morning.

    your floor looks very nice, btw! worthy of a pharoah named paul. now you’re leaving your monument behind to move to the upper mesopotamia*.

    *it might have been a little noisy and i don’t know how you would have fit everyone into the flat.

    *probably not, but any rightful pharoah wanting the escape the drudgeries of northern egypt or the hum drum of vienna could easily find an affordable townhouse there.


  3. notdonner

    This is great! In engineering school we celebrated stories of engineering marvels like this. In the service, I started criticizing who would design equipment I had to operate. In industry I complain about users inability to work my products. What is common through it all? bureaucrats. Paperwork and funding limits the entire process. Pyramids were easier when the guy who commissioned the project would be dead when it was ready.

    Liked by 1 person

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