Touching the Void (Learning a little Greek part 8)

“Touching the Void” is a true story of what happens when tragedy strikes two mountain climbers in the Peruvian Andes. One climber, Joe Simpson, who has already smashed up his leg, ends up falling into a crevasse and is left for dead by his friend. When he recovers consciousness he manages crawl out and inch his way 3000 feet down the mountain to their base camp just hours before it was evacuated. It’s a gripping story but the thing that I remember most is something Simpson said.

As he crawled out of the glacier, dehydrated and exhausted,  with no food or water, in terrible pain from his badly broken leg it occurred to him that there was no way he would make it back alive.

Rather than give up though he began to set himself little do-able targets.

“I started to look at things and think, ‘right, if I can get to that crevice over there in 20 minutes then that’s what I’m gonna do’.I don’t know why I did it, I think I knew the big picture of what had happened to me, and what I had to do was so big I couldn’t deal with it.”

He found the tracks of the other climber and followed them. He would inch his way forward towards little goals because he had no hope of completing the bigger one. The thought of achieving the little challenges kept him going and helped him fight of the urge to lie down in his seeping bag and die.

Now, I know that learning Greek is not quite the same thing as descending a treacherous glacier with no food or water and a smashed up leg but I can at least relate to the goal thing. There is no way I am going to learn NT Greek. It’s just not going to happen. I am no good at languages. However I can get to the next crevasse or bolder so to speak. I can learn the alphabet. I can learn one verb. I can learn another verb. My “teach yourself Greek” books and videos are the footprints I have to follow. I have no expectation of completing them but if I focus on just the next step then I think I can get a little further on before giving up.

In the last blog I set my goal on learning one verb. I am happy to report I have done it! I did it in two halves, the singular three first, then the plural three. I wrote them down loads of times and spoke them out. I showed my children what I was learning and got them to mark me (they just delighted in putting crosses by everything even if it was right!). I told my wife what the verb was and what the endings where.

After a while I was getting it more right than wrong, although it took me a few days to notice I’d missed out the “o” in the first person plural ending ie “λυμεν” instead of “λυομεν”. I think thats going to happen a lot. Never mind. If Joe Simpson got down the mountain with a broken leg, I can learn a little Greek with border line dyslexia. I have learnt one part of one verb and I’m not ready to lay down and die quite yet so what’s the next little goal?

I’m going to learn another verb. I’ll choose “I say” as it has the same ending as my first one and is used a lot in the NT. It’s used 1318 times in the NT as compared with “I throw” which is used 122 times. It’s also easy to remember as it sounds like the popular building bricks: λεγω. Notice it ends in ω. I think that’s why it has the same endings as λυω.  Here are the endings again:

person/people english ending sound clue
1st person singular I ω Oh my
2nd person singular you εις ais like ace
3rd person singular he/she/it ει ey as in hay
1st person plural we ομεν οmen
2nd person plural you ετε etay  – I wonder why its not ete
3d person plural they Oυσι oosee as in Lucy

So “they say” is λεγουσι and hilariously enough “we say” is λεγομεν – That’s “lego men”!  Well, almost. The root ends in ο not ω and I”m told λεγομεν means something different to λεγωμεν. I am the one on the end BTW 🙂


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