First Meeting – Spiritual Book Group: Gilgamesh
For the benefit of anyone who missed our first session, I’ve summarized a few highlights that I personally took away from our meeting. These are not necessarily my thoughts, but insights that were shared generally by all of us. I share them in bullet-point form. Much more came up than I am able to record briefly here, so please feel free to add to this in a response to the group. For the future, we can do this as an email thread or I can start a simple blog that we’d all have access to, and anyone interested can post their thoughts in any form. This is, of course, voluntary as I know we all have busy lives. Thank you all!
For anyone interested, there’s a wonderful website/podcast called On Being. Their interviews air on NPR Radio and they address spiritual life from many angles for modern audiences. Check it out!
After an elegant and much appreciated launch by Minervas, we opened with a discussion on what the word “spiritual” means. The term has been used so generically that we often aren’t sure what people mean by it. Here are some thoughts that came up in our talk:
-There’s no spiritual “compartment” in life; spirituality informs every aspect of daily life and isn’t “separate” or other, it’s at the core of being.
-Spirituality is about connecting, community-building and can be deeply social, engaged;
-Solitary contemplation is, for some, a very necessary part of this path – so some of us live on that divide between social/solitary in seeking meaning.
-Spiritual experience connects us to other people, it awakens us to the experiences/pain/joy/sadness of others; it’s our common humanity
-Spiritual life moves us away from materialistic concerns and worries and closer to a larger sense of self.
-We live in a culture/political moment that, at least publicly, is dismissive of all things “spiritual” (though strong countercurrents also exist)
-The subject of our life energy, our chi, came up and the importance of accessing this energy in the service of spiritual progress.
-For some of us, the archaic language was difficult to relate to, and we talked about the repetitiveness being linked to the fact that it was composed as a poem and transmitted orally;
-Much was said about the female characters. Women are reduced in much of literature – they are seductresses, mothers, whores, etc. Women are rarely represented as having multiple layers.
-The change we see in Gilgamesh (who starts out as a temperamental, destructive king) is in his love for Enkidu and in his acceptance of his own mortality at the end.
-Gilgamesh ultimately fails in his hero’s quest (to overcome death) but perhaps just by accepting it, he’s done just that.