“Humans are born, they live, then they die, this is the order that the gods have decreed. But until the end comes, enjoy your life, spend it in happiness, not despair. Savor your food, make each of your days a delight, bathe and anoint yourself, wear bright clothes that are sparkling clean, let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand, and give your wife pleasure in your embrace. That is the best way for a man to live.”
Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! In this episode, Nat, Neil, and Adil begin their Great Books Project starting with the oldest book on their list, Epic of Gilgamesh. This piece has been regarded as one of the oldest written stories to exist. It follows the story of Gilgamesh, who is two-thirds god and one-third man, as he searches for the secret of immortality following the death of a loved one.
We cover a wide range of topics including:
0:05 We start the Great Book Series off with with The Epic of Gilgamesh. From order of oldest to most recent, we will be reading this list of books and creating new episodes every 3 weeks until the list is complete. Follow along, and read the books with us as we go!
5:34 This book is estimated to date back to as far as 2100 BC. With how old the writing is, it’s fascinating to think about how much of the story has changed along the way from the original text. The way a culture recorded its information determines how we think about it today. In the time and location of Gilgamesh, everything was rich in clay so they used clay tablets to record everything.
8:58 With stories that are orally passed down, it’s similar to a game of telephone where details get changed along the way. This leads to different areas of the world telling the same story in very different ways.
11:49 There are several themes to the story, and many of these themes and stories are told throughout history. They’re not new by any means. One of the main themes talked about in this part of the episode is immortality.
14:50 At the opening of the story, Gilgamesh is portrayed as almost villain-like. As the story goes on, he ends up redeeming himself on the journey to find immortality. In this book, even the superhuman are very humanized, and they still fall into impulses and desires that all of humanity faces.
17:48 For the stories that stand the test of time, why did they last among the potentially thousands of stories that didn’t make it? Gilgamesh starts out as someone so vain with no fear of death. After experiencing a great loss, he seeks to obtain immortality, and tries to reconcile his fear of death. It’s only what you build that will outlast you. This lesson is ironic considering that this is one of the oldest books to exist and was physically written onto tablets.
“How can I keep silent? How can I stay quiet? My friend, whom I loved, has turned to clay, my friend Enkidu, whom I loved has turned to clay. Shall I not be like him, and also lie down, never to rise again, through all eternity?”
21:36 How much of this story got lost? While much of the story was able to be pieced together from the Babylonian tablets, not all of the tablets have survived, and some are damaged beyond repair.
23:54 Flood story: There have been numerous flood stories from around the world. There are some parallels of Gilgamesh to the story of Noah’s Ark. While some details are general, some details are extremely similar. As Gilgamesh goes to seek immortality, he encounters a character who resembles the Biblical Noah.
30:35 With many ancient cities being located on large bodies of water, a large flood would affect them much more than we realize. Part of Rome’s advantage was being hilly so that they were able to endure catastrophic events much better in comparison to other cities near water. When stories were written thousands of years ago, we often forget to account for how their geograpical location plays out.
33:32 Flood myth, Black Sea hypothesis, and the aquatic ape hypothesis. The story of Gilgamesh and other stories in history, and understanding how the context of local geography adds to it.
37:45 If you are in tune with how your body is feeling and what it needs, would you naturally know what food and other nutrients your body needs to grow and heal? Often times the noise and busyness make it more difficult to be in tune with our mind and body.
45:24 When they found the story of Gilgamesh on the 12 tablets, it was the first time they found stories very similar in nature to the Hebrew Bible. Other parallels between Gilgamesh and religious text: a 7-year drought, and the story of Adam and Eve.
50:44 The literal interpretation of the stories in the Bible is a relatively new phenomenon. How much of it was cross-cultural influence for other religions that read their Bible completely literal?
55:02 Science can be both good and bad. Not everyone is scientifically literate, and not every study is reliable. Anything you want to prove, you can most likely find a study to prove your point, whether that scientific experiment is fully credible or not.
59:43 Sleep paralysis, dream state, and shared dreams. There are common, unusual experiences that humans have shared while sleeping, with one of those being able to see or sense a shadow being.
1:01:11 Thanks for listening! Next up on our Great Books List, we will be reading the book of Genesis, followed by Exodus. You can keep track of our list here and reach out to us if you have any suggestions.
If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS, @adilmajid, @nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.
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Thanks for listening. See you next time!