Discover more from Resavager
The Road to Utnapishtim
Why you must read the heroic epics and inspire yourself to action.
Read the heroic epics. Kids these days get pulled into crap whether it’s video games or lame superhero franchises. These are designed to coax young men into inaction. Superheroes don’t encourage virtus, they only provide the watcher with a sense of helplessness. They provide the subliminal message of, “you can’t make a difference unless you have a superpower.” Then, confronted with this message and with the gheyness of the modern world, boys are sent down into the escapist fantasies and masturbation.
The purpose of men has never been inaction. The Ancient Romans believed inaction cooled the animus(the Roman spirit) and was a sign of cowardice. The sorry state of America is a testament to the necessity of right action. The age of the frontier is long past, replaced by an age of serpents ever on the lookout for good men to crush. Despite this ominous shroud and the massive advancements of technology, men are still a part of nature. Action is still an absolute necessity.
The ancient heroes are far from the goody superheroes we get suffocated with today and it may be a necessary design. These heroes, many of whom are descended from gods, still carry the faults of men. No one makes it to manhood without carrying faults and regrets. It’s not the good man who changes the world, but the man who chooses action. In most heroic epics, you get an honest account of the hero, from his great strengths to his pitiful faults.
The hero is a man, not some divine arbiter of “moral good.”
Achilles let his fellow Greeks be massacred by Trojans because of the attack on his honor by King Agamemnon. Heracles murdered his wife and children, maybe because he was driven mad by Hera, maybe because he was a demigod with a short temper. It wasn’t the first time he had lashed out at offenses against him. The heroes were also men who made mistakes and this is something powerful for you as a man to realize. They weren’t perfect, they fucked up, but still found the courage to do what was right.
This brings us to the topic of this essay, Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh — by right of his kingship — would bed the newlywed brides before the husband would be allowed to. He was seen as a tyrant king by his people. However, after meeting and befriending the primordial man made to defeat him, Enkidu, Gilgamesh became a hero. We remember him for being a just king of Uruk, who brought back the ancient rites of his ancestors to his people. The most powerful part of the Epic of Gilgamesh is what happens after Gilgamesh loses his dear friend, Enkidu.
Enkidu, who had helped Gilgamesh in his monster slaying, is taken from the king as punishment. You realize the author is laying out with the Epic that there is always consequences to the actions you take. No matter how mighty Gilgamesh is, he’s still a man, still susceptible to the same faults. You see it first when they slay Humbaba, the monster of the cedar forest. His death seems something that could have been prevented. The monster didn’t seem as bad as Gilgamesh made him out to be.
This brutal act sets off a chain reaction that ends in the death of Enkidu which leaves Gilgamesh inconsolable. Gilgamesh in his anguish, abandons civilization and returns to the wild to find his ancestor, Utnapishtim, the one man who became a god, the sole survivor of the great flood. This journey could have only been done by a hero as great and mighty as Gilgamesh who traveled through the underworld, who crossed the waters of death. After much toil, he finds Utnapishtim, but the immortal flat out refuses to give Gilgamesh what he sought.
The death of Enkidu awakened in Gilgamesh a fear all men must confront: the fear of death. Gilgamesh sought out Utnapishtim to learn the secret of eternal life, to become a god, and escape the fate of all men. First Utnapishtim offers the same advice he had gotten by all who encountered him on his journey. Live a good life, love your children, honor your wife. Eat well and dance. Gilgamesh isn’t ready to hear such wisdom however, and so Utnapishtim tells him how he became immortal.
“Who will assemble the gods for your sake, Gilgamesh?”
As a man, Utnapishtim was a king who was forewarned of the flood by the gods. He and his people built a massive ship to survive the flood. This tale perhaps was where the Christian story of Noah originated. Utnapishtim gives up all his belongings to his people to get the ship built for he and his wife, along with all the animal life. What kind of sour deal? You get the keys to the castle right before the world is put underwater.
Utnapishtim — from the safety of his ship — gets to watch the gods destroy the world with the flood. He sees the big black thundering storm cloud arrives. The rain pounds the earth with such power no one can see anything ahead of them. Everything drowns. Utnapishtim must watch all of this and when the rain finally subsides, he must then search for land. Eventually, he finds a mountain and sacrifices to the gods. The gods so deprived of worship, are so thankful for the sacrifice that they give him the gift of eternal life.
Gilgamesh waited intently for the answer to his question, but it never came. Utnapishtim just mocked him, asking who will rally the gods for Gilgamesh? Gilgamesh is given a chance to prove his worth. If he could fight off sleep for seven days, Utnapishtim would help him. Gilgamesh, worn down and ragged from his journey however, doesn’t last a day. What a tale Gilgamesh’s journey to the edge of the world is.
After accomplishing so much, doing the impossible, Gilgamesh is confronted with the truth. Immortality was a one time offer, given to Utnapishtim. The same offer wouldn’t be given to him. He would die — as all men do. He is forced to return to his city Uruk empty handed. When after this long journey ends, seeing his city brings him a sense of contentment. He is proud to be king of such a mighty city.
The Road to Utnapishtim
The road to Utnapishtim is compelling for many reasons. Gilgamesh shows us for who he really is despite his gargantuan stature and mighty strength. Despite being two thirds divine, Gilgamesh is still a man. He’s still susceptible to the same things all men are. He still must sleep. He must mourn and fear his own mortality. King and hero, he still meets bitter failure.
Like all of us, he is pigheaded. He refuses to listen to the wisdom given to him on his journey to the world’s end. The man he sought out offers only the same advice everyone else did. He’s left to figure it out like all of us.
Gilgamesh slayed monsters. The death of his friend Enkidu, sent him on a quest to the edge of the world to escape his fate. His return home helped him gain appreciation for the city that raised him, Uruk. From that moment on, he became a just king who rebuilt the lost temples and brought back the ancient rites of his ancestors so that his people wouldn’t lose their way. In all of this, there was action.
The world only changes if you force it to. You can’t be tricked into doing nothing because it’s hopeless. Only action will carry you out of hell.