Pandora’s box, are you optimistic about hope?
The name Pandora’s box itself exudes antiquity, as well as an enigma. People often use it figuratively to refer to something bizarre or messy. As you probably know, this box is some kind of unexpected struggle, but how hope got imprisoned in it?
The literal meaning of Pandora’s Box
In modern times Pandora’s box means “Any source of significant and unexpected troubles.” or “A gift which seems valuable but which in reality is a curse”.
Opening Pandora’s Box means, opening a can of worms.
The mythology behind Pandora’s Box
In one of the classic Greek mythology, Zeus, the king of Gods, instructed his friend Prometheus to create men out of clay with the faculty of consciousness and language. Zeus aimed to create a semi-intelligent species, a set of followers, to praise and worship Gods.
Zeus got upset with his friend Prometheus who later on, stole fire from heavens without Zeus’s knowledge and gifted it to the mortals. Gifting fire and thereby independence to the mortal world carried an inherent risk of disobedience and acts of revolts from them against the Gods.
Birth of Pandora
Infuriated Zeus instructs Hephaestus to shape from clay the first mortal female on earth. Thus the enchanting Pandora was created, bestowed with marvellous beauty and charisma.
Revenge is in the order
To take revenge upon Prometheus, who presented fire and thereby the power to the mortals, Zeus planned something that would bring misery on to the mortal world. For that, he marries Pandora to Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus.
Pandora’s Box, Zeus’ gift to Pandora
Zeus presents Pandora a beautiful jar/urn as a wedding gift, with explicit instruction not to open it up. To Pandora’s inquisitive inquiry regarding the contents inside the jar, Zeus’s reply was a vague nothing. To please Zeus, Pandora swore never to open it up.
Curiosity killed the cat
People find things more desirable when they are forbidden. Gods in heavens know this fact better than anyone and have used this weakness of men against them on multiple occasions. Eve in Christian mythology was tested similarly with forbidden fruit, and here Pandora was tested with a box. Day and night, the mere sight of the jar with its hidden possibilities tormented Pandora, and finally, she succumbed to her impulse.
A fatal container
Excitedly Pandora lifted the lid to see its contents. Behold, there was fluttering, the furious flapping of wings and wild whirling in her ears. The horrible looking creatures that escaped from inside of the box were utter misery in various forms, Zeus’s retribution for humankind. The world was now polluted with suffering, sickness, darkness, and other unspecified evils. A horrified Pandora hastened to close the lid of the jar, without knowing that entrapped inside one last thing remains, Elpis the spirit of ”hope”.
The unresolved conflict about the hope
The debate among the scholars whether the entrapped hope inside the jar was an extension of the curse, or it was some kind of blessing for humanity to look forward to, remains unresolved.
Retention of the hope in the jar is comforting, and we are to be thankful for this antidote to the misery, says some. Some scholars take the opposite view; Hope seems to be a blessing withheld from men so that life should be more miserable.
What Nietzsche had to say
Nietzsche argued that “Zeus did not want the man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torment.”
Life after all is not hopeless
Humankind is generally a hopeful bunch and would like to believe in the less pessimistic view about the entrapped “hope”.
Hope is not something we acquire, like other complexities of life, it’s built into the fabric of our DNA, that’s how we turn our dreams into reality.