The Pandas and My Pooh
And Other Followers of Gilgamesh

I have written several articles about the importance of Gilgamesh. The history and mythology of Mesopotamia are entwined around him. In the past 5,000 years, Gilgamesh is the most famous Mesopotamian mix of a person and folklore surrounding him.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is essentially a portfolio of five separate stories of the adventures of Gilgamesh. The central theme of the epic was Gilgamesh’s desire to find immortality. He sought out Utnapishtim, the only immortal in the world, to find the elixir for immortality. Utnapishtim told him of a particular plant that will provide him immortality. Gilgamesh found the plant, but a snake devoured before he could. In essence, Gilgamesh grasped the truth that immortality impossible.

Gilgamesh faced that reality and understood that he was wasting the precious time in his quest for immortality. In response to his finiteness, he stated, “Forget death and seek life.”


Gilgamesh wasn’t the only human being that understood that we will all die. Randy Pausch realized it also. “If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?” Pausch was dancing with death when he gave his Last Lecture. Less than a year later, he died from pancreatic cancer. An aside: I wrote an article about Pausch legacy quote on February 3, 2015…exactly six years ago today.

Steve Jobs also danced with death due to pancreatic cancer. However, his type of cancer allowed more time before most people are given that have pancreatic cancer. Regarding his impending death, he wrote, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent.” His dance with death changed Jobs.

Finally, Edgar Allan Poe wrote about this same issue of death in his poem, Eldorado.

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado. But he grew old--
This knight so bold--
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado. And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be--
This land of Eldorado?" "Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied--
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

All these people shared a similar mindset. Immortality wasn’t a reality to which any of us lay claim. Therefore, we need to move beyond death and live life by enjoying the moment.

Enter Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. They are two giant pandas that live at the National Zoo. They are like each of us. They aren’t immortal, but the enjoyed playing in the snow a couple days ago in Washington, DC. They followed Gilgamesh, Pausch, Jobs, and Poe. Enjoy the moment, which they did.

Then there was Ginger. In less than two years, she had to go down to Purdue Veterinary Hospital twice due to her two dances with death. Ginger and I have both done the dance twice, and we have learned that we aren’t immortals.

In some strange way, Ginger knew that she had some really serious medical issues due to her inflammatory bowel disease. Besides not feeling well, she would vomit and have diarrhea for weeks on end. There were many days that I spent many hours caring for her. Ginger grasped that I was attempting to help her. At night, I’d talk to her. Before she fell asleep, she would lick my hand. It was her way of thanking me for helping her. There were many days when she’d lick my hand for ten minutes or more. Initially, I let her do it for a minute or so and then tried to stop her. It didn’t take me long to grasp that she needed to express her gratitude. On days that she wasn’t sick, she wouldn’t lick.

A couple of days ago, we had the first really major snow storm in Crown Point. Late that afternoon, we went into the backyard and played catch with snowballs that I would throw to her.

Yesterday, in the early afternoon, it snowed even more. So, Ginger and I went out to play chuck-it in an open field near our home.

That game lasted a couple minutes after I throw the ball the first time. We couldn’t find it in the snow.