|Introduction to Epic|
- Saturday, December 8 2007, 20:49:33 (CET)|
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Introduction to “Gligamesh”, by Stephen Mitchell.
“In Iraq, when the dust blows, stopping men and tanks, it brings with it memories of an ancient world, much older than Islam or Christianity. Western civilization originated from that place between the Tigris and the Euphrates, where Hammurabi created his legal code and where “Gilgamesh” was written…the oldest story in the world, a thousand years older than the Iliad or the Bible. Its hero was a historical king who reigned in the Mesopotamian city of Uruk in about 2750 BCE. In the epic, he has an intimate friend, Enkidu, a naked wild man who has been civilized through the erotic arts of a temple priestess. With him Gilgamesh battles monsters, and when Enkidu dies, he is inconsolable. He sets out on a desperate journey to find the one man who can tell him how to escape death.
Part of the fascination of “Gilgamesh” is that, like any great work of literature, it has much to tell us about ourselves. In giving voice to grief and the fear of death, perhaps more powerfully than any book written after it, in portraying love and vulnerability and the quest for wisdom, it has become a personal testimony for millions of readers in dozens of languages. But it also has a particular relevance in today’s world, with its polarized fundamentalisms, each side fervently believing in its own righteousness, each on a crusade, or jihad, against what it perceives as an evil enemy. The hero of this epic is an anti-hero, a superman (a superpower, one might say) who doesn’t know the difference between strength and arrogance. By preemptively attacking a monster, he brings on himself a disaster that can only be overcome by an agonizing journey, a quest that results in wisdom by proving its own futility. The epic has an extraordinarily sophisticated moral intelligence. In its emphasis on balance and its refusal to side with the hero or monster, it leads us to question our dangerous certainties about good and evil.”
I find this wonderfully written and most refreshing…but one wonders why no assyrian Malpana has ever written about it but only gave us Jonah and that shrew Isaiah.
However, I do have to take exception to the “hero” or “superman” being identified with the United States…the Christian on Crusade. No one can point to any provocation by any Iraqi that could have brought on this war…this battle with a “Monster”. And I resent the idea that Islam is that monster. The truth is that Islam was minding its own business, living at peace with the Jews until Christians began their monstrous campaign to liquidate all Jews…finally settling their “Jewish problem” by moving the Jews they couldn’t kill to Palestine and stealing an Israel from those who never bothered a single European Jew.
It has been this extension of Christian European monstrous inhumanity to their own Jewish citizens by forcing them among Palestinians which has infuriated Muslims the world over…though how they remained so patient I can’t imagine. So, if anyone is the superman in this scenario it is the Iraqi Freedom fighter…and the monster has been, as always, the Christian.
And it is not true that one comes away not knowing who to side with…at least not in Life. As the American film “Red Dawn”, about an attack by Soviet paratroopers against a peaceful United States teaches us; the attacker is always the villain and the innocent, law-abiding people minding their own business who are suddenly forced to take desperate measures to defend themselves, their families and country from a monstrously illegal and unjust war, are the true heroes.
Other than that, beautifully written.
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