Everyday we are exposed to scandal. Britney, Heath Ledger, the assassination of Bhutto. What does it all mean? What does it mean to be human? This has formally been a poetry blog, but today it’s a human blog. What did the United States experience right after 9/11? Besides a surge of nationalism, people reached out to one another and showed their compassion for humanity.
Compassion has been written about for centuries. In Babylonian Gilgamesh, compassion changes the solipsistic ruler into one who actually cares about advancing the human race. In the beginning of the text, as an un-popular king feared by his subjects, Gilgamesh raped new brides, half-hazardly repaired the walls of Uruk, and was very self-centered. After the death of a near brother, Gilgamesh learns that being human means having compassion for an other. The gods live without fear. Yet without fear, one lacks desire, lacks action, and lacks life. By naming death, Gilgamesh finds meaning in life. This text teaches us to accept death, battle loneliness, and to establish connections and love for one another…so that our story, the human story, might continue on.
In Homer’s Iliad, Priam shows compassion for an other when the circumstances seem ridiculous. Priam has endured what no one on earth has ever done before; he put to his lips the hand of the man who killed his son. Shockingly, Achilles takes the old man’s hand and brings him to his level, so that both weep at a common ground. Societal customs are thrown out the window at this point. We are left with two human beings with compassion for each other. They are on level ground, equal in their empathy.
These poems still resonate with us today. As I mentioned above, people come together in times of tragedy. But we should come together all the time! We should talk about issues, reach out to people like the fallen pop princess, Heath Ledger, and supporters and dissenters of Bhutto. What makes us human? We have the capacity for an other. Although at times it may seem inconvenient or pointless to help out someone, through these poems we’re showed not only how we should reach out, but why. We make the meaning in our lives, but poetry can transport us to another world, show us who we are, and where we can go. We are human. We are making poetry.