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A Life Work

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I have trouble thinking sometimes that life is something that I can figure out. With my simple living and minimalist ideals I get confused sometimes and think I can. Like there is some trick to it – life, parenting, money, etc –  that with enough thought, books, and effort I can figure out.

My daughter wanted to learn about the Rosetta Stone this morning and something really jumped out at me that I wanted to share.

First off some background.  The Rosetta Stone was discovered in in 1799 by a French Soldier. It was a stone that had a message written out in 3 different scripts – Egyptian hieroglyphics, Demotic and ancient Greek.  Amazingly enough this was something the French and English fought about.  They fought about the stone and about Egypt.  Really French and English fight about everything.  Anyways, this guy; Jean-François Champollion dedicated his life to understanding ancient Egypt and understanding their writings.  … he spent his life studying language and staring at little symbols on this stone and others.  And after years of work, he made breakthroughs on the Egyptian language that were a turning point to Egyptian language study.  His work has been praised, used, and grown for the last 200 years.

I just couldn’t get past the part that he spent his life – not just a few weeks or months – studying this.  There are some great jewels for applying to life in this.  (*when I use the word ‘life’ from now on it refers to all areas of life – purpose, parenting, relationships, money, religion and more)

  1. Life isn’t easy to figure out.  It can’t be mastered with reading a book, adopting a religion, having a heart to heart talk with someone wise, spending a weekend retreat thinking or any other way.  All these are good, but these are quick fixes that don’t work.  They help, but there is no ticket to figuring out life.  I get so frustrated when I don’t know the answers, when my life isn’t working the way I want it to, but I am only 31, I can’t have everything figured out yet.  Life is so much more complicated than that.  It is a ‘life’s work’ to figure out ‘life’.
  2. Enjoy the process.  Jean-François loved what he was doing.  Loved the culture and loved language.  Life can’t be only about a destination.  Sure, we can work toward learning and understanding, but there is no guarantee we will get there.  We need to enjoy the process and celebrate the breakthroughs that we do make.  It seems the more I learn about life the more I realize that I don’t know.  Sometimes this makes it feel like I am moving backwards, but in reality, I am learning and growing.
  3. Question everything, look at things in many different ways.  The reason Jean-François made the progress that the English weren’t making with translation is because he was able to look at it many different ways.  He wanted truth more than anything and was willing to question ‘his most cherished beliefs’ (source).  I need to bring all the knowledge I have learned in life to ‘the table’ and see how it relates to new information.  Think the argument about the shape of the world.  We can know things to be true, all the while understanding that we still don’t understand all their truth.  Seek truth above everything else and be willing to let other knowledge and belief bend in the process.
  4. Not having an end result is not an indication of the right or wrong path taken.  I look at this guy and think – What if he did a bunch of his work and then died suddenly? Would that have meant he wasn’t smart enough to do what he did or that he was going about it the wrong way? No.  Lack of answers quickly doesn’t mean that the process is going wrong.  Life is far more complicated to figure out than ancient Egyptian writings.  I don’t think anyone’s lifetime is long enough to figure it out, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying.  Wouldn’t it seem like he should have given up after a few years and tried something else that might have been more promising? Small truths (that often find themselves dressed in the covers of a book) help others so much in their journey for truth.

I don’t want to say that life can’t be figured out. It is just that it hasn’t been yet… and that humans are probably not smart enough.  This is both good news, an action point and the reality check I needed this week.  I wish I had everything figured out (I would love to share all the deep wisdom with you), but I am still just ‘staring at the symbols’.  Once and a while I think I recognize a few only to find out I am wrong and needing to tweek my hypothesis. (Jean-François had to do this many times)

Don’t have life figured out yet?  That is great!  Really, no one does.  If they think they do they are kidding themselves and have stopped growing.  Just tweek the hypothesis and lets study the symbols some more together.

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  1. Mary Mary

    Life is a puzzle and we are each a piece of it!

    I just have to mention here that we use the Rosetta Stone English program in our ELL classes (used it more at the high school than we do now at the elementary, though I am trying to change that.) Also I have taught lessons on the history of the Rosetta Stone to students on more than one occasion. Nice accompaniment to the Rosetta software. I have always been amazed by the language masters of this world. Here in the US, we are not exposed to as many languages. Most Europeans are taught English from a very young age.. and other languages, too, I presume.

    Languages, not being the point of your essay, but the patience to learn something challenging, which is certainly an asset in our fast-paced world.

    • Yes, the patience and ability to learn language is amazing. I would love to say I could speak several…. I will have to keep working on that 🙂

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