History This Week - "Make Each of your Days a Delight" - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

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History This Week – “Make Each of your Days a Delight”

Today we continue on our History – This Week series with Sarah Shotwell. We hope this encourages your home discussions on Gilgamesh this week!

“Make Each of your Days a Delight”: Urgent Life Lessons from the Epic of Gilgamesh

editor Austen Henry Layard , drawing by L. Gruner, Public domain, Image via Wikimedia Commons

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a work of Near Eastern literature that is one of the earliest complete literary texts in history that readers have access to. Originally a Sumerian legend about an historical king of Uruk, an early Mesopotamian city, the tale likely spread orally around the Near East and was written about in various Sumerian poems. A version in old Babylonian is still being compiled from various texts found around the middle east, but large pieces are missing. The most commonly translated — and most complete — version known by modern readers is the “Standard Babylonian” version, written around 1000 BC and found in Assyrian Emperor Ashurbanipal’s library when Nineveh was discovered in the 19th Century by British archeologists. With each retelling, the epic changed to reflect the cultural and generational values of their time.

Tablet V — Standard Babylonian Version

A stunning work of poetry crafted during the height of the flourishing bronze age literary renaissance, this Epic reflects remarkable advancements in the development of language and writing, deep emotion, and a high level of poetic skill. This cherished work of art still speaks to us on a fundamentally deep level as human beings and is considered one of the most important literary masterpieces in human history. How wonderful is it that we get to explore this together this year across all our grade levels!

At SLOCA, we like to say “There are no heroes or villains in history.” People certainly do both brave and evil things, but when we look at the complete picture, humans and societies are often a tricky mess of traits, both good and bad. That is certainly true regarding the Assyrians and Babylonians! Both of these cultures received a remarkable amount of bad PR for the ways they brutalized and crushed minority cultures around the Near East. Nowhere was criticism of these warfaring nations more palpable than in the Hebrew Bible, which highlights the real devastation and suffering caused by these empires. And yet it is revealed through their own remarkable works of literature that these same brutal civilizations were also capable of love, friendship, beauty, tenderness, mercy, wisdom, and forgiveness. Uniquely, the religious beliefs of  these early writers also seem to deny the existence of an afterlife. Instead, they express that each person has only one life to live, and the responsibilities to both experience that life fully and also leave behind a positive legacy for future generations.

Babylon. Image via Pixabay

When King Gilgamesh is on his quest for immortality, he meets Siduri, winemaker and brewer for the gods. She gives him some practical bartender wisdom, telling him:

“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.”

Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, The Epic Gilgamesh instructs us all that this life on earth is short, and we must make the most of it while we are here. That reminder to experience life and love to the fullest, and to live each day with the knowledge that it could be our last, is a true and beautiful lesson that each generation of humans on this earth has had to learn anew. That is why we read classics. That is what a great book can offer.

sky, galaxy, astronomical object, night, star, astronomy, atmosphere, spiral galaxy, outer space, milky way, Free Images In PxHere
Image by PX Here

Want to live life more fully this week? Here are some ideas:

  • Hang up and hang out! Put your phone away. Take a social media break. Be present for conversations. Laugh with your friends and family.
  • Make it new! Treat yourself to a new experience this week. Go someplace you’ve never been before. Try a new menu item. Learn a new hobby you’ve been dying to try. Fresh experiences make life exciting and give us things to talk about!
  • Stop and look around! Sit in a cafe and people watch. Sit quietly in nature. Go to the beach and listen to the waves crash. Go outside in the middle of the night and gaze up at the moon. Revel in the beauty of your own smallness.

What are your favorite ways to practice the art of presence? Share with us in the comments section below!


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