Ode to Joy

When I was in high school, I once joined a moot in the debate club. The moot question was ‘’Are humans superior to nature, or is nature superior to humans? There were two groups; Team 1 was supposed to represent the belief that ‘Humans are superior’, Team 2 was supposed to represent the belief that ‘Nature is superior’. We drew for being in one of the two teams. I ended up in Team 1.

In those days, my focus was the end result only, so I needed to be on the winning team. We were given one week to prepare ourselves for the moot. With my team, we spent hours in the library to find the ‘right’ arguments to convince the moot jury that humans are superior to nature. On the moot day, I was chosen as the spokesperson of our team. I passionately defended our arguments in front of the jury and we won.

While I was working for my recent storytelling show called ‘’The Fertile Crescent’’, I remembered this story of mine and felt embarrassed because of my boldness. I guess for the first time in human history, this type of boldness might have been injected into the veins of human civilisation by the epic of Gılgamesh. In ‘’The Fertile Crescent’’, I tell some episodes of this famous epic tale combining them with my own true life story.

The epic of Gılgamesh is known as the earliest surviving great work of literature. This traditional story from ancient Mesopotamia tells the heroic acts of Gılgamesh who is the king of a Sumerian city called Uruk. Since the birth of written literature, Gılgamesh has been a symbol of bravery, audacity, and success in our collective consciousness and unconsciousness. With his boldness, he paved the way for the ideal that ‘Humans are superior to Nature.’ This argument could also be read as ‘Hu-men (masculine) are superior to Mother Nature (feminine)’.

As I said in the beginning, unconsciously I was also affected by that ideal. Now, I know that as human beings we could not be superior to nature. We are part of nature and that is why we need to respect the ways of nature. If we do not respect these ways, then we need to deal with the consequences like the current covid pandemic.

In the epic, Gılgamesh undertook a journey to seek immortality and he could not get it. The message of divine powers is clearly expressed in the ancient text: ‘Humans are destined to die.’ Gılgamesh was very afraid of dying and this characteristic seems prevalent in the modern desire to extend life through various forms of healthcare and medication.

While working on this performance, I realised how immensely anxious I was about the thought of dying. Thanks to the pandemic and the immortality journey of Gılgamesh, I had the opportunity to face my fear. I imagined the aftermath of my death and I wrote a legacy letter; a letter involving my values, memories and blessings to my loved ones to be shared with them after my death. The Legacy Letter* process enabled me to make peace with my mortal being. I still have the fear of dying but I do not feel trapped in that fear. On the other hand, Gılgamesh was trapped in the fear of dying. Therefore all his actions stemmed from this fear. He could not sense the pleasure and joy of life because he was always fearful in the present time and anxious about the future.

During my research, I came across a novel called ‘The Lion of Uruk: Gılgamesh’ written by Prof. Harald Braem. The novel tells a fiction story inspired by the epic of Gılgamesh. In the novel, Gılgamesh’s mother Ninsun advises her son: ‘’My dear boy, courage might swallow all other emotions and you can become heartless. On the other hand, joy is more powerful than courage. Joy could embrace courage. Where there is joy, there is no fear. Keep your joy in your shiny eyes and share it with others!’’

These words were like a pearl of wisdom which resonated in me deeply. I added them into ‘’The Fertile Crescent’’ performance and structured the story as a tribute to the pleasures and joys of life. In the midst of a pandemic, we definitely need more joy and pleasure in our lives, otherwise fear will occupy everywhere.

*If you are interested in doing this process for yourself, click here.

Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *