The common sense of acceptance and the search for immortality
A few weeks ago I watched a compelling telepic out of Britian called The Occupation. The story centers on the intertwined fates of a group of British soldiers deployed to Iraq during the first war. That deployment became the centrifugal force for personal change, ruin, temptation and despair. Grace became a compromised state of existence.
One central character found understanding, if not solace, from The Epic of Gilgamesh.
In one of the movie’s final and most forceful scenes, a dead young innocent in eulogized by the reading of Siduri the Barmaid’s guidance to Gilgamesh on the state of man’s soul. Here’s the complete exchange; the film only uses Siduri’s last statement, which stands starkly absent Gilgamesh’s anguish.
Siduri the Barmaid: If you are that Gilgamesh who seized and killed the Bull of Heaven,
Who killed the watchman of the cedar forest,p
Who overthrew Humbaba that lived in the forest,
And killed the lions in the passes of the mountain,
Why are your cheeks so starved and why is your face so drawn?
Why is despair in your heart and your face like the face of one who has made a long journey?
Yes, why is your face burned from heat and cold?
And why do you come here wandering over the pastures in search of the wind?
Gilgamesh: And why should not my cheeks be starved and my face drawn?
Despair is in my heart and my face is the face of one who has made a long journey,
It was burned with heat and with cold.
Why should I not wander over the pastures in search of the wind?
My friend, my younger brother, he who hunted the wild ass of the wilderness and the panther of the plains,
My friend, my younger brother who seized and killed the Bull of Heaven and overthrew Humbaba in the cedar forest,
My friend who was very dear to me and who endured dangers beside me,
Enkidu my brother, whom I laved, the end of mortality has overtaken him.
I wept far him seven days and nights till the worm fastened on him.
Because of my brother I am afraid of death.
Because of my brother I stray through the wilderness and cannot rest.
But now, young woman, maker of wine, since I have seen your face
Do not let me see the face of death which I dread so much.
Siduri the Barmaid: Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to?
You will never find that life for which you are looking.
When the gods created man they allotted to him death.
But life they retained in their own keeping.
As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things;
Day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice.
Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water.
Cherish the little child that holds your hand.
And make your wife happy in your embrace.
For this too is the lot of man.
Accept and enjoy the things around you, for searching eternal life is folly, a kind of hubris in the face of the Gods.