Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

Mortality, Gilgamesh, and John M. Ford

No interesting anecdotes, just musings.

I'm listening to an audiobook lecture series on comparative religions, and this morning's lecture was about the Epic of Gilgamesh, which I hadn't been familiar with before. I'm paraphrasing a summary, but the gist was that in religious terms, the key points of the epic were, first, Gilgamesh's failed attempts to become immortal after the death of his close companion, and second, the ending right after these failures, where Gilgamesh displays his city's monumental walls to someone else. (Wikipedia has a longer summary.) The lecturer described this as demonstrating the firm insistence of Ancient Mesopotamian religion that there is no immortality for humans, but in the face of this knowledge, the thing to do is to work with and for other humans.

I was apprehensive about the dental work I was about to have, so I mostly thought to myself, "Huh. That's interesting," and went into the dentist's office. The dental work went fine, I listened to some music on the way into work, I fired up my web browser and crashed into the news that John M. Ford had died.

I was sufficiently stunned that I didn't connect the things until sometime later, when the thought floated across my mind that my lack of belief in any religion is genuine, but sometimes not very comforting. I can only be relieved that I know I told him that The Last Hot Time was one of my favorite books, whether or not he saw my comment about ridiculous fangirlishness. All such opportunities for praise and appreciation are now gone.

(And even if one believes that people's existences don't end after death, I still think that communicating one's appreciation while they're alive is intrinsically better.)

By coincidence, today I also heard from some old friends that I've been bad about keeping in touch with. I wrote back, I'm going to write to some other people I've fallen out of touch with, and I'm contemplating who else I ought to be expressing appreciation to, because they deserve it. I'd have been thinking along these lines even without Gilgamesh, of course; but it was a nice reinforcement of the principle.


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