, August 21, 2012
(view all comments by GDuperreault)
I first read Gilgamesh about 20 years ago -- not this translation -- because it was referred to as an important psychological text by mythologist Joseph Campbell and poet and social critic Robert Bly. I confess to having been very disappointed in it at the time. However, my expectations were very high because of the recommendations. And, as it turns out, I lacked the understanding to appreciate the text, because at the time I simply did not get it.
Well, let that be a lesson. Now, older, I have grown into being able to appreciate the subtlety and psychological sophistication that Campbell and Bly (and others) were alluding to. Amusingly, I seem to be on a binge of seeing in the creative things around me endless manifestations of Zen's The Ten Ox Herding Songs, A.K.A. The Ten Bulls. I am being a little loose here, because Gilgamesh's journey doesn't exactly follow the Songs, but it is metaphorically very close, which is that the path to spiritual enlightenment requires getting one's feet dirty in the mucky waters of the physical universe.
Here are a couple of passages I flagged. I like them because I find them evocative and stimulating, but I am not sure what they mean. They are talking to something in my unconscious, or perhaps archetypally. This means, to me, it is something I have yet to learn.
I think compassion is our God's pure act
Which burns forever,
And be it in Heaven or in Hell
Doesn't matter for me; because
Hell is the everlasting gift
Of His presence
to the lonely heart who is longing
Amidst perishing phantoms and doesn't care
To find immortality
If not in the pure loneliness of the Holy One,
This loneliness which He enjoys forever
Inside and outside of His creation.
It is enough for one who loves
To find his Only One singled in Himself.
And this is the cup of immortality! (p74-5.)
I did not come out [because of my parents' sexual desire] like you,
Said Utnapishtim; I was the choice of others (p75).