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The epic of Gilgamesh - the eternal problems of human existence
The search for the elixir of youth and eternal life is a topic that has consistently chronologically followed the development of the entire human civilization. Ever since the Sumerian-Babylonian era, several millennia away from us today, man has felt uncomfortably small and unimportant in relation to the boundless distances of the universe and the forces that exceed his abilities. One such man was Gilgamesh, known to us as the main character of the inevitable reading of high school reading, the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Gilgamesh, although he seems infinitely distant, explained in one very simple and receptive way the greatest torment of man, who, unfortunately, always has to lose in the fight with windmills between life and death.
Gilgamesh was a real historical figure, a demigod, a half-man, the most famous king of the Sumerian city of Uruk, during his reign surrounded by strong walls that hid a real Mesopotamian treasure.
This king was loved and respected, which can be concluded in the epic from the following sentences:
Citizens look at his face with admiration and fear
His word and speech in the city are the law.
As it happens even today, when someone is so high on the pedestal, the eyes of either ordinary or superior people must be stabbed, and so it would be with Gilgamesh. The resigned goddess Aruru created the steppe beast Enkidua, a counterpart to our king, with the intention of defeating him.
However, Enkidu and Gilgamesh become not rivals but friends in a duel, join forces and deal with evil beings throughout Mesopotamia, such as Humbaba, the guardian of the Cedar Forest or the terrible bull.
Unfortunately, shortly after the last campaign, Enkidu became seriously ill and died, leaving his best friend in complete confusion. And not only because of the death of the best friend he ever had, but also because he was forced to ask himself the well-known and not so favorite question:
What will happen to me?
Won't I and I, like Enkidu, die?
My soul is torn by pain.
I was scared to death and that's why I'm running across the steppe.
I go to the mighty Utnapishtim, who has found eternal life.
I'm in a hurry to get to him.
And indeed, Gilgamesh, although two thirds a god, and one third a man, overwhelmed by worries about his future destiny, is embarking on a long journey to Utnapishtim. On that journey, he meets, among other things, his protector, the sun god, Shamash, who tells him that "the life he seeks will not find".
He then talks to the goddess Siduri Sabitu, who advises him to enjoy while he still can, to freely indulge in joys and not think much about what will come naturally.
In the end, however, he comes to the grass of immortality, carries it back to his city to share it with his fellow citizens, but takes a break to bathe in the lake, leaves the grass on the shore and, ironically, the snake takes it away. Gilgamesh then talks to Enkidu's shadow and asks her what the secret of life after death is, and Enkidu replies:
If I were to reveal to you the law of the land I saw,
You would sit down and cry.
Gilgamesh dies immediately upon his return to Uruk.
Eternal life - eternal dilemma
When we talk about Gilgamesh's unsuccessful pursuit of the elixir of eternity, we can't help but remember the moment when this thought came to his mind at all.
Yes, that was the moment he lost the most important person in his life. Before that, while he ruled the most powerful Sumerian city, from the throne of one of the most powerful people in Mesopotamia, he did not think of anything other than taking care of his city and inhabitants and maintaining correct relations with higher powers.
But everything changed when Enkidu died. Because he was important to him. Because he did not expect his death. Because it was his death, and not someone else's, that made him wonder what was waiting for him, where and if the two of them would ever meet again.
When the goddess Siduri showers him with hedonistic mantras of a happy life, Gilgamesh only makes it more depressed, because he becomes aware that he has been fighting a battle with uncertainty all his life and is fooling himself by refusing to admit that he is a participant in that concern.
it draws unbelievably, but this disturbing truth was given to human civilization on twelve clay tablets, carved with cuneiform signs, freely speaking - in a very primitive form. And yet, never more realistic, never more topical and never more painful.
To make matters worse, the very fact that our hero was a god for two whole thirds, and only one poor third a man, testifies to us that this tiny human germ actually determined his entire inevitable destiny and survival, more precisely non-survival on this planet.
Unlike the gods, who as "puppies" (as the creator of this epic creatively portrays) hide from the flood and take care of themselves in the most difficult circumstances, Gilgamesh in his trouble is the true ideal of nobility and human goodness, and does not eat the grass of immortality alone but is proudly worn by compatriots.
Yet, in spite of all the virtues that guided him through life, and even on this most difficult path, he ended up as many after him ended up - both as a loser and as a winner. A loser, because he lost in the fight with his own mortality, and a winner, because he took to death all the best that he could gain spiritually during his life and left an indelible mark behind.
In fact, so indelible, that we, the people of the distant 21st century, continue to talk about it with sadness and pride - because that is how he finally deserved it.