I’ve been doing some research about the concept of Hope. Besides Paulo Freire’s quotes that I posted earlier (which is more connected to the active part of hope – as in, you must trust and also act to make it a reality), there is this notion that comes from Pandora’s box and the fact that hope is what’s left, after all the evils inside come out of it.
The book I read about mythology confirms that the box given to Pandora by Zeus was actually opened by her husband, Epimetheus (his name literally means “after-thinker” – the one that first acts, then thinks) as a way to teach his brother, Prometheus (that stole the fire from Olympus for the benefit of humanity against the will of Zeus), a lesson on the differences between humans and gods. It took me a while to find this version of the story, because there is a bunch of analysis on how Pandora, with her curiosity given from the gods, was the one that opened the box. It wouldn’t matter so much who did it, if this wasn’t used again as a way of women doing wrongful stuff that has consequences to the rest of humankind forever.
Jane Ellen Harrison sees in Hesiod’s story “evidence of a shift from matriarchy to patriarchy in Greek culture. As the life-bringing goddess Pandora is eclipsed, the death-bringing human Pandora arises.” Thus Harrison concludes “in the patriarchal mythology of Hesiod her great figure is strangely changed and diminished. She is no longer Earth-Born, but the creature, the handiwork of Olympian Zeus.”
I am still thinking about what it all means, the fact that hope is what was kept and it’s all that’s left for us with all the evils outside to haunt and torment us. But I will slowly try to read more about it. Some interesting thoughts, on the same Wikipedia article:
This interpretation raises yet another question, complicating the debate: are we to take Hope in an absolute sense, or in a narrow sense where we understand Hope to mean hope only as it pertains to the evils released from the jar? If Hope is imprisoned in the jar, does this mean that human existence is utterly hopeless? This is the most pessimistic reading possible for the myth. A less pessimistic interpretation (still pessimistic, to be sure) understands the myth to say: countless evils fled Pandora’s jar and plague human existence; the hope that we might be able to master these evils remains imprisoned inside the jar. Life is not hopeless, but each of us is hopelessly human. (…)
An objection to the hope is good/the jar is a prison interpretation counters that, if the jar is full of evils, then what is expectant hope – a blessing – doing among them? This objection leads some to render elpis as the expectation of evil, which would make the myth’s tone somewhat optimistic: although humankind is troubled by all the evils in the world, at least we are spared the continual expectation of evil, which would make life unbearable.
Pandora, however, is an interesting creation too:
The more famous version of the Pandora myth comes from another of Hesiod’s poems, Works and Days. In this version of the myth (lines 60–105), Hesiod expands upon her origin, and moreover widens the scope of the misery she inflicts on humanity. As before, she is created by Hephaestus, but now more gods contribute to her completion (63–82): Athena taught her needlework and weaving (63–4); Aphrodite “shed grace upon her head and cruel longing and cares that weary the limbs” (65–6); Hermes gave her “a shameful mind and deceitful nature” (67–8); Hermes also gave her the power of speech, putting in her “lies and crafty words” (77–80) ; Athena then clothed her (72); next she, Persuasion and the Charites adorned her with necklaces and other finery (72–4); the Horae adorned her with a garland crown (75). Finally, Hermes gives this woman a name: Pandora – “All-gifted” – “because all the Olympians gave her a gift” (81). In this retelling of her story, Pandora’s deceitful feminine nature becomes the least of humanity’s worries. For she brings with her a jar (which, due to textual corruption in the sixteenth century, came to be called a box) containing “burdensome toil and sickness that brings death to men” (91–2), diseases (102) and “a myriad other pains” (100). Prometheus had (fearing further reprisals) warned his brother Epimetheus not to accept any gifts from Zeus. But Epimetheus did not listen; he accepted Pandora, who promptly scattered the contents of her jar. As a result, Hesiod tells us, “the earth and sea are full of evils” (101). One item, however, did not escape the jar (96–9):
Only Hope was left within her unbreakable house,
she remained under the lip of the jar, and did not
fly away. Before [she could], Pandora replaced the
lid of the jar. This was the will of aegis-bearing
Zeus the Cloudgatherer.
listening while writing: Charlotte Gainsbourg – Everything I Cannot See