Jan 25, 2018 in Literature

The Epic of Gilgamesh: Gilgamesh and Enkidu

Gilgamesh is clearly one of the most mysterious epics of antiquity because of unique culture of Sumer civilization. A real historical character, he is depicted as partially human and partially having god-like nature. For a contemporary reader, the hero can look more like a villain because of his thirst for blood, sex and power. However, despite the frightful portrait of Gilgamesh at the beginning, the epic shows his potential to growth, which is fulfilled after his meeting with Enkidu. These two characters are opposites in many aspects, and yet they have much in common. It is interesting to explore why both of these characters transform in a positive way after meeting each other.

The aspect that makes Gilgamesh selfish is his loneliness. He has no one equal close to him, whom he could trust. Gods seem to understand that and send Enkidu who is as mighty as he is, though is  literally made from different clay.  Because the two characters are larger than life, it is hard for both of them to communicate to ordinary people. In case of Gilgamesh, this results in boredom and cruelty, which is caused by his inability to apply his power in a constructive way.  Enkidu’s power is also hidden for a long time but it is clear from the very beginning how strong he is because of his wilderness and close connection to nature. The author of the epic speaks of the sign, which informed Gilgamesh about the emergence of a close friend while he was dreaming.

It often happens that the opposites are attracted to each other, which is the case with Gilgamesh and Enkidu. A man of royal blood and a savage seem to have little in common but it is obvious that the do: because of their uniqueness, they are both loners and have to be spiritually strong in order to prove their heroic status continuously. The author demonstrates how they affect each other in a positive way: Gilgamesh becomes more caring and less egoistic and fierce, while Enkidu becomes a more civilized person. In fact, Enkidu symbolizes nature, while Gilgamesh symbolizes civilization, which clearly makes their friendship an allegory too.

The Bhagavad Gita

To fight or not to fight? This is the question of major concern to Arjuna, a noble Hindu warrior. He is a master at war, yet when getting ready for another battle, he is concerned that many people are going to be killed for the goal that seems not to be worth it.  His meditation is broken by his charioteer Krishna who appears to be an incarnation of god Vishnu in the world. He plays the role of an advisor presenting the doctrine of Hinduism that justifies a warrior’s actions.

In fact, it takes being a contemporary of the characters to understand why they have the values like this and why Krishna defends the idea of fighting. First of all, there is a certain code of warrior that should be followed. Honor is one of the values, which is appreciated, while cowardice is condemned. So, unlike Christianity where peace is more welcome, even cruel heroism is more attractive to Hindu culture. Another reason for this is that death is not frightening because of reincarnation belief. In fact, death does not exist from this perspective, while it is experience in this life that matters. To dies is not the worst, not to take the best of an opportunity in this incarnation – this seems to be the major issue to Hindu people.

Krishna persuades Arjuna that killing a physical body is not the worst that can happen because a person should realize that this home is not forever for one to stay. Instead,  one should use life at best for practicing perfection, and the methods are karma yoga and jhana yoga. One can practice jhana yoga and isolate oneself from the world or one can practice karma yoga, which means to get in touch with the world, though it might be unpleasant. Krishna suggests that it is more useful to face one’s fear than to escape from it. Indeed, living in a monastery would keep a person cleaner than living in society but it would probably give no similar opportunity for perfection. A conclusion can be drawn that sometimes one has to fight in the dirt in order to achieve enlightenment in the future. The battle is an allegory of life, where a choice has to be made, which is often choosing between the bad and the worst. Choices are hard but they help maturing- this is one interpretation of the poem that may appeal to people today.

The Old Testament: Genesis (1-4, 6-9)

The Bible is more than a sacred book of Christianity; it is interesting as a cultural and historical phenomenon as well.  Besides, it is peculiar for its layers of meaning, metaphors and allegories that can be deciphered in numerous ways. The Book of Genesis is probably one of the core ones in the Old Testament because it describes the beginning of the world, and at the same time it is a text that describes a model of the Universe in a metaphoric language. Experts agree that there are a number of contradictions throughout the text, which probably was written down by several people, in different epochs, and edited or censored more than once.

One way to treat the text is to perceive it literally; in this case Genesis looks like a beautiful fairytale for children with God acting in a classical image of a human and living on a cloud. Yet, there is another way to see the story of Genesis as a metaphor of any creation. In this text, the story of God’s making life out of nothing reveals the mystery of any creative process as a spiritual process. The first chapter describes how intention is the first step of any plan, and it shapes the world into something meaningful, how smaller items and phenomena originate from larger ones, but how eventually everything in the world is divine because it comes from the same source. The fact that creation takes six days demonstrates to humanity that every plan takes time to be implemented.

One of the most interesting parts of Genesis is devoted to creation of humans. However, it is made clear that humans that appear to be the source of evil The favorite creation of God, they are his bitter creation because people are the main disappointment. Created according the image of God, they are tempted into hate, greed, lust and other sins. The Book of Genesis is important in this context because it explains the reason of Christ’s sacrifice who has to cover the crime of the whole humanity. This book also deals with the issue of trust: trust between people and trust between Good and people. The idea behind this concept is while trust between people can be easily broken, a personal communication with God is the highest possible form of love and devotion. The Book of Genesis demonstrates that those people who trust God are rewarded by him. Even though there are many sinners, God is ready to forgive them for the sake of few virtuous people, like Noah whose story is told in Genesis. Overall, the book is a background story for the next sacred texts and helps understand the core concepts of Christianity.


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