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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Pandora Outside the Box

Pandora's Box is a myth as to how evil came into the world through the first woman who was overcome by curiosity and disobeyed the Big Daddy God. Sound familiar?

God (Zeus) wanted to punish Promethius for bringing fire to man so he made a woman endowed with all the gifts of the gods, ie full of grace (which the name "Pandora" means). He gave her to Promethius' less intelligent brother who immediately and foolishly fell in love with the beautiful woman. But Zeus also gave the couple a big vessel and told them not to open it under any circumstances (knowing full well that the curious woman would). 

The container was full of all the evils of the world. When Pandora opened it to look, all the evils (sickness, death, work, sadness, greed, larceny, and stinky arm pits) flew out to contaminate mankind. But there was one other thing that remained. It was expectation, sometimes translated from the Greek as "hope."

Lots of morals to this story: don't piss off the gods, curiosity killed the cat and everybody else, women are a lot of troubles, don't play with fire, beware of Greek gods giving gifts, sex isn't all it's cut out to be, never give up that ship, use deodorant, and probably many more. 

Now here is how I want to retell the story and draw some different lessons. 

The gods were getting anxious about humans. Men were getting too uppity. Now they had fire and were starting to eat cooked meat, make steel utensils, and look for more things to do and have. And since the gods' immortal existence depended on the belief of humans, they were afraid. They knew that if humans really got going, they might not believe in the gods anymore. 

So the gods decided to keep humans in their place by a continual reminder of human mortality. After all if humans didn't die and suffer and cringe a bit, they would no longer call on the immortal gods for help. And no more gods! So they fashioned this well-endowed woman as a temptress. They gave her a box of evils with the command not to open it. One of the meanest things they put in the box was expectation which would cause the greatest suffering because it could never be fulfilled by mortals.

But big mistake! One of the gifts they bestowed on Pandora was curiosity, an inquisitive mind. They gave her this so she would open the box which would release death and all the other evils. 

I believe that it was the wise Athena who worked out the combination of expectation and curiosity, endowing the woman with curiosity and slipping expectation into the box without Zeus noticing. She knew that when you combined curiosity with expectation it became hope. 

When the curious graceful Pandora opened the box, amidst all the problems of the world there was still hope. The truths of the gods could be questioned and the problems of the world could be solved through human curiosity. Humans no longer needed the gods; so that while many problems remain, humankind can take responsibility for solving them. 

Like the story of Adam and Eve, this is a myth about the dawning of human thinking, both its danger and its delight, from which comes human freedom, dignity, and transcendence.

Thanks, Eve, for crossing the boundary.  Thanks, Pandora, for thinking outside the box.

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