Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2100 BC - A Lesson from the First Epic Poem

Scratching something on a porous surface allows people who pass by know that we were here.  Making uniform marks to match oral sounds, we call letters. Formimg letters to make words written on something is said to be writing.  Words put into the best order is said to be literature. Exactly what that best order happens to be is matter of judgment.

Before we write most of us utter, grunt and eventually speak. Even those afflicted by enormous physical challenges manage to give voice.  We go from imitating sounds that seem to get us what we want and what we want to keep to expressing more sophisticated verbal activities, like making other people respond to our mouthings.

As we get a little more polished in forming speech, we eventually arrive at story telling, or singing songs.  we share our existence with others.

Considered the oldest written epic poems, the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh is said to be our oldest human expression of thoughts and reactions to living.

Like contemporary Mesopotamia, where ISIS rolls over human history and beings, times were tough in 2100 BC, BCE.

The King of Ur, Gilgamesh was a serial rapist and slave-driving 1%-er. Actually, he two thirds god and one third human and therefore had no truck with less mortals.  He had Barack Obama's ego on steroids.  Gilgamesh raped women and put males to the task of entertaining their king with impossible athletic challenges, or completing public works projects.  He so bad that pagan gods were moved to create a hairy-assed thug who would rival Gilgamesh on his worst day -Enkidu.

Enkidu was a wild man tasked by the gods to slow-down Gilgamesh's cruelties.  The two brawled and as in the case of most such juvenile rivalries became fast friends, like former Catholic league football rivals, or boxers,  and turned their baser instincts against more formidable foes than the citizens of Ur.

They climbed the Cedar Mountain and kill a giant and later the Bull Ishtar, sent by the goddess her self because because Gilgamesh refused to give her a tumble in the sack.

Eventually Enkidu is bumped off by the very gods who sent him and this lead Gilgamesh to turn from his sinful and back-sliding ways to a search for the meaning of life.

He goes from oafish misogynist slaver to thoughtful philosopher king. How about that?  The epic of Gilgamesh predates the Bible by more than 1,400 years.  Called the Gateway to the Old Testament, this Sumerian poem tells human beings not be savages.
ISIS didn't get the message. In fact ISIS thugs are destroying the very tablets on which Sumerian culture is written.  Hitler burned books.  PC schools bowdlerize Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.  In fact, one might think that the only works in world literature were written by second rater Toni Morrison, or Truman Capote's gal-pal Harper Lee.   Literature has been savaged.

Savagery is with us always.  What are we doing about it?  Schools no longer teach virtues - too judgmental.

Literature is as important as the NBA, or Bruce Jenner's choice du jour.

No comments: