Saturday, January 15, 2005

Old But Good: Gilgamesh

(c) Andy Ternay
  • A Lonely Rock in Big Bend National Park.

  • Have you ever read the epic of Gilgamesh? Considering it is one of the oldest stories known to man and certainly one of the earliest surviving written texts, it is surprisingly easy to read and relate to. It is a story of a king of ancient Mesopotamia, how he meets a man who becomes his best friend, the best friend falls ill and dies and the great grief that Gilgamesh feels as a result of this. It's a really good story and it is amazing that they were able to capture all of those feelings and emotions that are so universal to all people, stamp them on clay tablets in cuniform writing, and then hand them down to readers 4,000 years later. To me it was almost a psychic shock to read my feelings and experiences with Jim (well, we never shared a temple harlot) as felt and experienced by a man who walked the earth 4700 years ago.

    This story comes to us from Mesopotamia, which most of us today call Iraq. It is worth remembering, as we go around calling them towel-heads and savages, that they were the first to have that great instrument of all civilizations: writing. In fact, in terms of civilization, theirs was the best in the world at the time. They had irrigation, they had sophisticated trade, hell, did I mention they had temple harlots? That last one sounds like a good idea to me; introduce young men into the mysteries of sex as they become adolescents and that becomes a coming of age rite. I think it would also clear up a lot of confusion if an actual woman explained to a young man what it was all about rather than the kid getting his info from prime time TV and the internet.

    Wait! I must remember to check if that is registered.

    Anyway, its a damn shame that we are killing them and they are killing us. Surely there could have been another outcome to this.

    Go read Gilgamesh if you haven't already. It is an easy, fun read and I think any person will find a bit of the soul of humanity in there. Blessings to you.