Pandora’s Box

This is one of the more interesting of the Greek myths because it is more like a fable than a myth in that it teaches the lesson of how unchecked curiosity and disobedience can be dangerous. It also teaches us that hope is the good that remains when all the other injurious elements have escaped into the world. Today, I’m going to challenge that interpretation of the myth and offer you another way to think about hope.

The similarities between the myth of Pandora’s box (jar in the original story) and the Garden of Eden should not go unnoticed. Like Eve, Pandora is the first woman on earth and she is given the gift of the jar by Zeus with the specific instructions to never open it. Why Zeus would do this isn’t shared with us, just as why Yahweh would create the tree of knowledge in the middle of the Garden of Eden and specifically instruct Adam and Eve to never eat of its fruit is also not explained. In both cases curiosity overcomes the women and they do that which is forbidden. In Pandora’s case she releases all the vices and desires that will plague mankind. Eve’s actions result in the knowledge of things that only Yahweh is supposed to know and thus, she and Adam will be punished by expulsion from the garden and condemned to make their way in an otherwise hostile environment.

We are told by scholars that the myth of Pandora provides a possible redemption in that Zeus had inserted Hope as one of the elements in the jar. In the garden there is an implied hope of Yahweh’s eventual forgiveness of the sin but more importantly the need to contend with the world outside the perfectness of the garden. BUT, why would Zeus insert hope along with all the ills of the world? Perhaps we misinterpret the myth; perhaps hope isn’t a good thing but one of the evils with which mankind must contend. Think about it, we wallow in misery but we have hope that one day we won’t. We live in pain-wracked bodies but we have hope they’ll find a cure. We survive in a plethora of otherwise uncomfortable situations but we have hope. So then, does hope really help or was it put in the jar because it is an element that only abets in continuing the deleterious situations in which we find ourselves?

Hope was written into the Greek plays throughout the centuries: when things looked darkest and there was no solution the Greek playwrights used a Deus ex Machina (God in a Box descending from on high) to resolve the issue. Thus, it is divine intervention that resolves an otherwise unresolvable situation and it was perfectly acceptable to the audiences of Greece. The characters honored the gods, and had hope and the gods responded when needed but only for those who believed in and honored them. Today, we refer to such resolutions as miracles.

But hoping does not always result in a miracle or a god in a box as at least some of the Greek playwrights recognized; Sophocles wrote, “No good e’er comes of leisure purposeless; And heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act.” In our modern world we have a paraphrase for that, “God helps those who help themselves.” This is not a biblical quote, nor is it in keeping with the preaching that faith, hope and love are enough. There are several biblical references that can be interpreted in such a manner that God expects man to act on his own behalf and there are also such references in the Koran. In Buddhism there is karma where action is the key to change.

More importantly, observation of the real world confirms for us that hope alone isn’t enough; Action is required. Do not hope for change, be an agent thereof, whether the change is in your personal life, the lives of others or the life of your country. Do not bemoan the political situation, involve yourself, for hope without action won’t convoke others to help. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” So said Edmund Burke, and he was right. It is not enough to hope, for hope without action only prolongs the misery and that’s the hope Zeus put in Pandora’s jar.

Make no mistake, the evils Pandora released beset us today more than ever: lust for power; envy; divisiveness by race, creed, skin color; income; and a desire to destroy others both individually and collectively as members of a race, gender, religion or political belief. These evil forces cloak themselves in raiments of peace and equality, particularly the latter, but look beneath those raiments and they are but skeletons of disorder, without organs, brains or flesh. The Christian Saint Matthew warned: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits…” Thus, look to their actions which are actions of disunity, not union; actions of hate, not peace; actions of lust for power, not equality.

So, I “hope” you take this to heart, or rather to wit, for we should act logically, not emotionally, and consort with others to act on behalf of honesty and the rule of law; against deceit and the law of the mob, as well as those who embrace the mob in their lust to control.

What do you think?

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