‘Among the greatest things that can ever happen to a person’ – Rainer Maria Rilke
We are bound to ask, ‘Why did Rilke hold the Epic of Gilgamesh in such high regard?’
The answer may be uncomfortable…
In a letter to a friend he confided that he regarded the story an Epic on The Fear of Death.
The first written story known to humanity deals with last things!
And why shouldn’t it?
Part of who we are and why we are here is intimately caught up with precisely this psychological crisis.
There may be as many answers to such a crisis as there are individuals attempting to overcome it, or the crisis may resolve itself into a straight choice between two psychological movements:
The movement out into projection with its attendant horrors or the movement within to contemplation and its subsequent wisdoms.
The clues for the successful resolution to the dilemma are scattered liberally throughout the dramatic adaptation which you will be performing this weekend, like soul gems primed for garnering.
One such: ‘For six days and seven nights I mourned for my beloved, Enkidu, and then a maggot fell out of his nose….’
Once discovered these gems may still need much polishing…
Gilgamesh, our initially wayward hero for the weekend, starts as one thing and ends as another.
This thing and its other will be crucial to our quest for understanding.
As a later savant, echoing some of the nuances of our story, once put it, ‘No one has lived as long as a dead child, and the old man dies young.’