Photo by Eric Blauer

Men, Gilgamesh & the call of the Wild


By Eric Blauer

I recently returned from an annual men’s campout I host called ManCamp. We set up our base camp at Lionshead Campground on Priest Lake in Northern Idaho. It’s four days of wilderness exploring, 4×4 trekking, mountain climbing, lake and river swimming, setting fire to meats of various beasts, throwing big stuff, feasting like kings, launching high velocity pointy objects and sharing the stories of one another’s trials and triumphs of life.

It’s primal in ways that many men never get to experience, a weekend of firsts for many men, like one gentlemen in his 50’s who experienced his very first hike!

I’ve spent a few days processing all that took place and in my reflections, I came across this section from the Babylonian tale: ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ that captured the existential desperation I often hear and see in so many men’s lives.

“Gilgamesh cried out to the god Shamash: “Here in the city man dies oppressed at heart, man perishes with despair in his heart. I have looked over the wall and I see the bodies floating on the river, and that will be my lot also. Indeed I know it is so, for whoever is tallest among men cannot reach the heavens, and the greatest cannot encompass the earth. Therefore I would enter that country: because I have not established my name stamped on brick as my destiny decreed, I will go to the country where the cedar is cut. I will set up my name where the names of famous men are written; and where no man’s name is written I will raise a monument to the gods.’ The tears ran down his face and he said, ‘Alas, it is a long journey that I must take to the Land of Humbaba. If this enterprise is not to be accomplished, why did you move me, Shamash, with the restless desire to perform it?” -The Epic of Gilgamesh

“Here in the city man dies oppressed at heart, man perishes with despair in his heart.”
It’s an ancient suffering and many men are stuck in the rut of meaninglessness modernity and it’s killing them.

David P. Goldman put it this way in his article, “The fifth horseman of the apocalypse”:

“Individuals trapped in a dying culture live in a twilight world. They embrace death through infertility, concupiscence, and war. A dog will crawl into a hole to die. The members of sick cultures do not do anything quite so dramatic, but they cease to have children, dull their senses with alcohol and drugs, become despondent, and too frequently do away with themselves. Or they may make war on the perceived source of their humiliation.” -Asia Times Online 13 Dec. 2011.

I spend a lot of my life investing in men of all ages and everytime I come back from one of these adventures, I am reminded of the sacred and saving work that takes place in these circles of men. For many it’s a rescue, a resuscitation, a revelation, a reawakening and most often, a reminder that they do not need to walk alone. Every man should find his tribe and take his place among men for the sake of his own soul and that of his friends.

“The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” – Homer, “The Iliad”

These are desperate and often depressing times but that looming apocalyptic cultural cataclysm can make men more fully alive if they have a community of deep wisdom, relevant courage and a multi-generational vision to sharpen and shape them into the men they are striving to become.
I am grateful I have that tribe.

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