One thing I find interesting about the ancients was that they faced the same fears and insecurities we do today. Take away all the social and technological advances we have made and strip away human beings to our most basic level and we are no different to those who walked the earth thousands of years ago. The Epic of Gilgamesh is full of life lessons that one can take and draw inspiration from. Everyone who reads such an epic may take different things from it, but for me here are the 4 life lessons learnt through Gilgamesh.
Humility: Being humble is an important trait. I heard once that you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat people they don’t have to be nice to. This always resonated with me. You have some people who seem to get off on being nasty to other people. Gilgamesh, pre Enkidu was that person. He was king so he didn’t need to be nice to anyone. He took whatever girl he wanted and worked people so hard they would die from exhaustion, he didn’t give a shit. That was until Enkidu came into the picture. When these two warriors had a fight Gilgamesh was a changed man. He developed empathy and humility. He went from being hated by his people to being loved, from villain to a hero. Being humble should be a priority as we are all here a short while and we are all in this thing together. You enjoy the journey a lot more when you’re not being a prick.
Facing your fears: I have a friend who is so scared of failure it paralyses him into a state of apathy. He hates his job and has a social life that is limited to fleeting interactions with friends who he has known since high school. I myself at times would prefer the comfort zone where bad things don’t happen and your ego is left untouched in your own little protective bubble. I think we all do sometimes, but the thing with that is nothing good comes of it. Greatness exists outside that comfort zone. Bored with life, Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out to slay the demonic giant Humbaba. They didn’t need to. They could have stayed in the comfort of their palace and sleep with their concubines all night and pursue whatever other pleasures imaginable. But they didn’t. They risked it all for greatness. At various times both Gilgamesh and Enkidu wanted to give up and turn back. But they found something inside them to keep going and not give up. What’s your Humbaba?
Consequences to your actions: As a teacher it surprises me just how surprised students are when they get called out on their actions. They fail to see the connection between an action and a consequence. Its even worse when adults have the same ignorance. All actions have a consequence, some direct, some indirect and some positive and some negative. But we should be in tune with what may happen if we follow through with our actions. When Gilgamesh killed Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven he had no idea the impact it would have. His own actions set off a chain reaction which inevitably ends with the death of his closest friend, Enkidu. Being aware of the storm you may cause through your actions is important and if your actions cannot be avoided at least you can be prepared of the possible consequences.
We live forever through our legacy: Death is an inevitable part of life that we all must face. We cannot live forever, at least not physically. But what we can do is leave behind a legacy that will last long past the death of the physical. Ask yourself, what do you want to be remembered for? Gilgamesh was distraught by the concept of death and it wasn’t until he returned to Uruk that he realised his legacy will live forever. As well as the beautiful city he built, the positive impact he had on the people of Uruk and the adventures he had would last forever. They would last a long after he passed away. How do you want to be remembered?