The road to Utnapishtim

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road-to-utnapishtam-3Where to begin?  Before Enkidu died he lamented to Shamash that he had become something he hated, out of love for his friend.  It has been a long journey for me the last couple of years and although not as heroic as the Epic of Gilgamesh, I feel a small piece of it travelled with me.  The last few months have not been a journey of discovery, but rather rediscovery.  That part of me that was dormant for some time has been clamouring for relief, for escape.  I’ve been trying to find my way back to a place I’ve already been.

The irony is that it was Enkidu’s friend Gilgamesh who underwent the journey, to find Utnapishtim and immortality, after the death of Enkidu.  In essence he gave up on his life in order to pursue everlasting life, to get the secret, the ‘how’ which the gods granted him after he saved humanity from the Deluge.

The problem with using Sumerian imagery is that I have a rather more optimistic outlook on life than they did.  Their motto seemed to be ‘life’s a bitch and then you die’.

Let me put things in perspective. When I first started writing this entry, oh about a year ago, my thoughts were:

Here is my bookmark, my line in the sand.  There was the ‘before’ and there is the ‘after’, with many changes in between!

But in the time since then I’ve stewed, steeped and generally fermented.  Things that seemed to be coming together in my mind came apart again, then reattached in other ways.  Eventually I came to the conclusion that while dramatic demarcations in our lives often do lead to new ways of thinking, there was no such thing at work in my brain.  A combination of inertia plus the distractions of a new house and job kept me from my voyage of rediscovery.

What I started off wanting to do was explore the distinction between becoming something new and recovering something ‘old’.   I can’t speak for other people, I really only know my own mind best, and even then it is cagey in how it hides information!  But I remember as a young boy being very idealistic, everything was black and white, right and wrong.  The more I grew and learned about the world, the fuzzier all those sharp edges became.  Instead of the obvious morality of the old fashioned comic book hero I was migrating toward the greyness of film noir, where bad guys do good things and good guys did bad.

So how does this lead us to recovery of old patterns of thought and behaviour?  Is it even beneficial to do that?  This narrow little path easily branches into intolerance and “fundamentalism”.  You wouldn’t think such a recovery would be difficult.  You’ve been there before, head back that way.  Yet things are never so simple, with age and wisdom some of the fundamentals underlying your personality change.  You can never go back, but you can revisit, contrast how you felt then and feel now.

Where are you going with this Doug?  The whole Gilgamesh thing was kind of cool, but now you’re drifting into something between metaphysics and new-age psychology.  Well the whole essence of my personality seems to be tightly connected to the explorer.  I thrive when I have new places to explore whether they be virtual or physical.  But rather than the clear object of Gilgamesh’s exploration I’m not sure where I’m trying to go.  And there is the rub.  The loss of my self because I couldn’t answer the ‘why’.  But the lack of answer doesn’t stop the desire, it doesn’t satisfy the voice that asks what’s this book about, or what’s around that bend.  Maybe it really is all about the journey.  There is no defintive answer about the ‘why’, just the potential to harness the desire.  The classical there is no Right, just Right Now.

Obsession

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Sunset sail

Well if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about provocative keywords, it brings in the views from google! But this post really is about ‘obsession’.

I’ve been absent for months now from the virtual world and it relates to the topic. Something clicked, some tuning fork in my head rang sympathetically to a sequence of events and I became ‘obsessed’. It all started as I tried to wrap a story around a series of images I created called the ‘Hapless Photographer’. That story starts with ‘Hap’ going for a sail. As I immersed myself in the character I recalled how much I loved sailing my canoe when I was a teen, then sailing with my dad in his sloop during university. All of it came to a head as I breathed life into this characters motivations for the trip that causes him to be marooned (and thus ‘Hapless’) in the first place. But then my significant other, who has also been vicariously around other peoples boats all her life, lit the fuse with an offhand comment like ‘we should get a boat’.

It turns out my library has a LOT of books about boats. Not to mention that the dormant salty virus had ensured I’d picked up a few myself over the years. So I’ve spent a good portion of the last two months reading everything I could lay my hands on. I now know the difference between a lazy-jack and a spreader, between gunk-holing and ocean-passage… Didn’t get my feet any wetter, but I’ve found an undiscovered country in my head that I didn’t even realise I’d been living in. It’s like you wake up and there’s suddenly a whole new room in your house.

When I was young I always imagined myself as an explorer. When I look back at the things I really enjoy, they always have an element of exploration. Museum’s and bookstores, travel, biking, hiking, camping, photography, I’ve always enjoyed them when approached as facets of exploration, making the unknown world a little more known.

So, while I was getting PADI certified as an open water recreational diver, my partner in craziness Lisa went out and bought a little boat. It’s an old 20 foot sailboat, when you look at the hull from the inside you can see a couple of patches where it was probably bashed on the rocks in its time, and even signs the mast once went overboard. But it was floating and the price was right! Now it sits in our backyard on a makeshift cradle while we strip it down, replace all the rusting bolts with stainless steel, clean off the accumulations of previous owners and make it ours.

There is something satisfying about getting something ‘used’. Like a fine violin gets better over time as it’s played, I get a sense of its history. That’s why I love old houses and used boats. This boat could have been Hap’s, somebody found it, patched it up and used it for awhile before it moved along the chain to us.

Over our heads!