|Freshman Marcel Puyat|
One of my biggest worries in coming to Stanford was how I would manage balancing my time between working on my golf game and doing school-related work. I struggled a bit in the Fall Quarter with motivating myself to work on writing some of the papers assigned in my Introduction to Humanities class, as I always found myself too tired from a day’s work in the gym and on the range/course to get myself to do schoolwork. This definitely showed itself in some of the very average grades I received on some of these papers, leaving me determined to find a way to improve on my study habits without taking away time from my sport.
In analyzing what I would do with my time on a weekly basis, I knew immediately that the lazy Saturday and Sunday mornings had to go. I made it a point to sleep much earlier on weekend nights throughout most of Winter Quarter, allowing me to get up early and put some hours into studying and getting work done before practicing or playing some holes in the afternoon.
This extract from a paper in my Introduction to Humanities: Epic Journeys class is a product of my new sleep and study habits on the weekends. Although some of it pertains to specific portions The Epic of Gilgamesh, the gist of my thesis discusses how struggling through tough times, no matter how adverse they may seem, is the only way to truly undergo a significant and life-changing learning process. While it is explored in my paper within the context of this epic poem, the subject of struggling through adversity is very relevant to the life of a competitive golfer.
The interactions between gods and mortals that occur in several epic poems result in varying types of outcomes that can be viewed as both beneficial and detrimental towards the hero’s journey. From gods acting in favor of certain characters due to biases in their proclivity towards certain races of people, to gods that do everything in their power to make life difficult for the hero, these relationships between heavenly figures and characters that live in the mortal world tend to be significant matters that can dictate the way the plots of certain stories unfold. However, with the knowledge that almost every hero’s journey ends in his return or symbolic resurrection with the attainment of some manifestation of an elixir, the validity behind the true meaning of the conflicts faced throughout the hero’s journey comes into question. Are these clashes between gods and heroes truly meant to delay the fruition of the protagonist’s mission? In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the conflict that arises between the goddess Ishtar and Gilgamesh answers this question with a resounding “no.” With the descent of the Bull of Heaven that led to the death of Enkidu, and ultimately Gilgamesh’s awareness of his task to fulfill on earth, this friction between god and hero ends up becoming the turning point in allowing Gilgamesh to realize his destiny as two-thirds god and one-third man. This proves that the opposite of the question previously posed is the actual truth: these god-hero conflicts are essential to the development of the hero’s journey.
This progression of events that led to Gilgamesh’s realization of his fate as a mortal would not have been occurred at all if not for the discord that took place between Ishtar and himself. The way certain gods create obstacles to challenge the hero, whether physically, mentally or emotionally, plays an important role in the transformation that occurs in his journey. As ironic as it appears to be, Gilgamesh would not have gone on his path towards his acceptance of his own mortality if Ishtar had not tried to kill him. Expanding on this idea of the god-hero conflict being a significant positive step in pushing the hero in the right direction, it is worth arguing that these conflicts prove to be more crucial in guiding the hero towards his destiny in comparison to the helping hand of the gods that act in favor of the hero. Gilgamesh is forced to face his formerly unknown fear of mortality through the death of his best friend, and this life-changing type of experience was brought about by an angry goddess. These types of struggles create the conditions for a learning process to occur. Ironically, the gods that intend to help the hero are not able to put him through these tough endeavors that challenge the hero to grow and mature in their journey. It takes the intervention of a divine opposing force such as Ishtar for Gilgamesh to realize his purpose in the world. In striving to make it through these types of challenges, the hero comes out stronger and wiser in the end. Conclusively, the existence of a god that tries to hinder the protagonist in his pilgrimage is an absolute necessity for the evolution in a hero’s journey to occur.
My golf game this year might have gone through a few more “downs” than “ups” so far, but I remain hopeful that the hardships I face will only make me come out a better and more mature golfer in the end. As the saying goes, what does not kill you will only make you stronger!
Marcel Puyat, freshman from Makati City, Philippines