Losing a friend through death can be quite a painful experience but realizing you can die when you thought you were immortal is worse. Human beings must accept that death is inevitable and live with meaning and purpose in their short lives. This experience is evident in the epic of Gilgamesh, where a historical king known as Gilgamesh, who was a third man and two-thirds a god, was so strong and powerful until he realized he was not immortal. He wastes so much time on a journey to find eternal life, only to learn that death is inevitable and the only way to live happily is to accept the fact. Losing someone you love and realizing you will also die is essential in learning about the meaning of life and the value of being alive. It encourages appreciation of life achievements and the people around us. The pain of grief teaches about the spirit of endurance by bringing people to a final acceptance that death is inevitable and that the most important thing is to live a life with a purpose.
There is always a purpose behind the death of loved ones. It makes people realize that they have to face their lives without them. Grief makes someone cherish the people around them because they know death can take them at any time. Losing a friendship that had turned you into a better person makes you appreciate those people for being in your life. In the epic of Gilgamesh, the death of Enkidu forces Gilgamesh to face life without his friend. The gods chose Enkidu to die instead of Gilgamesh because the purpose was to soften Gilgamesh’s heart and make him a better king. Enkidu’s death teaches Gilgamesh the meaning of love. Their friendship had turned him from being a bully to a good king and man loved by the people. Their connection helped Gilgamesh identify and engage himself in dealing with people’s interests.
Human beings fear death a lot despite it being inevitable. Living a life where you are sure of eternal life can be pretty fulfilling since you don’t have to worry about death. It is better to grow up knowing you will die instead of realizing that later, after death takes one of your loved ones whom you thought was immortal too. This is portrayed in the epic of Gilgamesh, where Enkidu’s death purpose was to test Gilgamesh’s fear of death. The end of Enkidu led Gilgamesh to a self-discovery journey of his mortality. He goes seeking for Utnapishtim to discover the secrets to immortality. When he realized that he could not acquire mortality, he accepted the fact. It made him appreciate everything he had done for his people, and he was glad that they would never forget him since he left a legacy of building a great wall.
True friendship is a mutual affection between or among people built through caring, integrity, congeniality, loyalty, trustworthiness, and honesty. All human beings must have friends since they are social beings. The epic of Gilgamesh involves a powerful half-human half-god and his friend Enkidu. Gilgamesh’s reaction after his friend’s death shows the intensity of true friendship. The two men are an excellent example of genuine friends who were first enemies when they fought like two bulls. Later, they became brothers, and where even Gilgamesh’s mother called Enkidu his second son when she says, “O mighty Enkidu you are not sprung from my womb, but henceforth your brood will belong with the votaries of Gilgames” (3.125). They helped each other gain fame by going on adventures to kill giant Humbaba and The Bull of Heaven, just like true friends are supposed to do. Their friendship helped Enkidu achieve civilization’s purpose, and Gilgamesh became a better person. The death of Enkidu was a significant blow to Gilgamesh. Watching his best friend waste away was a painful experience for him. after his death, He moans his best friend by cutting his long hair and tearing off his king clothes and jewelry. They then ordered the finest craftsmen to craft a statue of Enkidu out of the most precious stone “Of which the handle was forty minas gold, he provided his friend.” (3.125), which proved how much he loved Enkidu.
Many written stories involve gods who have an essential role. Mostly, the gods have a purpose of protecting the people or enforcing punishments to them when they disobey. The gods’ interference in human beings’ lives plays a significant role in the epic of Gilgamesh, where humans live at the mercy of the gods. The gods expect obedience, and failure to Enkidu’s death was necessary to remind Gilgamesh that he made the mistake of upsetting the gods. Killing the bull of heaven and the forest’s guardian led to his friend’s death. The gods decided Enkidu would die as the consequence of both their mistakes. They had offended the gods, and as a result, the god’s wrath came upon them. Enkidu fell into a severe illness and died as a result. This made Gilgamesh realize that he had to respect the gods and stop looking for fame by upsetting the gods “the great gods will take us in anger, Enlil Nippur, Shamash in Larsa… Establish forever a fame that endures how Gilgamesh slew ferocious Humbamba” (5.240).
Human beings live with the fact that death is inescapable. We are born, live, and then die. After death, our souls separate from our bodies, and although there are myths explaining life after death, no one has a clear idea of what happens. This was the most crucial lesson Gilgamesh learned after Enkidu’s death. He is a powerful king who is two-thirds god and one-third human, making him immortal. The thought of death does not occur to him until Enkindus dies. Enkidu is similar to Gilgamesh as he is also partly god and human. He realized that only the gods could live forever, making him bitter since he had humanity. This led him to a failed journey to find eternal life “I am afraid of death, so I wander in the wild, to find Utanapishti” (9.5).
Humans should enjoy life since it ends with death. The realization of mortality is a lesson that teaches about living life for what it is and enjoying people around us instead of chasing fortune and power. It is the opposite as people believe wealth and power result in happiness in the current society. However, the story of the epic of Gilgamesh’s experiences, enjoying life, and appreciating the people we love is more important than power and fortune. Gilgamesh is a king with a lot of wealth, but he finally finds true happiness after seeing a friend in Enkidu.
Life is a continuous journey of seeking the meaning of us existing. The epic of Gilgamesh explores the topic of finding meaning in life profoundly. Finding meaning in life enables us to find purpose and accept what life offers. The death of Enkidu taught Gilgamesh about acceptance and fulfillment in life. At the end of his journey to look for eternal life, he did not acquire eternal life. Instead, he came to acceptance of the fact that one day he would die. Utanapishtim tested Gilgamesh’s ability for the worthiness of eternal life by staying awake for seven days as his wife put bread near Gilgamesh’s head every day to prove how long he slept. The test never worked because Gilgamesh slept all seven days. He now had to accept that he would not get eternal life.
Mortality teaches us to appreciate the importance of good leadership. Good leadership is protecting people and understanding their interests. A leader should not be cruel and selfish to the people as it makes them unhappy. Good leadership is portrayed in the epic of Gilgamesh, where Gilgamesh started to get involved in their interests. After accepting mortality, Gilgamesh decided to appreciate and recognize his excellent work and began to get involved in the interests of his people. He knew that he would never make him be forgotten. He climbed the wall of Uruk and walked around. He checked the foundation, brickwork, and seven sages’ well-laid-out. After he was told, “O Urshanabi, climb Uruk’s wall and walk back and forth! Survey its foundations, examine the brickwork! Were its bricks not fired in an oven? Did the seven sages not lay its foundations?” (9.325). It showed his satisfaction and fulfillment of having something great for his people. He was glad that the wall he built would always remind his people of his rule even after death. Although he did not live forever, he was delighted that his people would never forget him and was content with that fact.
In conclusion, the pain of grief teaches about the spirit of endurance by bringing people to a final acceptance that death is inevitable and that the most important thing is to live a life with a purpose. Realizing you will also die is essential in learning about the meaning of life and the value of being alive. It encourages appreciation of life achievements and the people around us. The book epic of Gilgamesh teaches true friendship, good leadership, and finding meaning in life. Through Gilgamesh, we learn that friendship is more important than power. Despite death being inevitable, finding a purpose and meaning of existence is better than living in fear of death.
The epic of Gilgamesh.Translated by Andrew George, penguin Books, 2000