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Hope in a Jar

When Pandora's curiosity overcame her lover Epimetheus's warning not to open the jar which was given by Zeus as a gift, Pandora released all the evils hitherto unknown to mankind. From the jar escaped Greed, Vanity, Slander, Envy, Pining and Hate. Afraid of what she had done, she closed the box in time before the last thing in the box was released. It was Hope.

Legend has it that because of the release of such evils, mankind began to despair and curse the gods for such an intolerable fate. With much guilt for the suffering of all, Pandora returned to the jar to release Hope so that in the face of evil man would have something to hold on to.

But the version of the myth which I prefer is that Pandora intentionally did not let Hope out of the jar and held it there forever. She knew that if Hope would be released into an already evil world that it would cause much more suffering than man could ever bear. For in much Hope comes not consolation but sadness.

To Hope is to tragically know too much, to know the evil of the world but still discount it in favor of another world. But this is the only world we know. To hope against it would deprive man from any dignity that befits him. It takes his suffering away from him which is due to him and proper for him. To hope instead of his fate would deprive him of owning up to himself and the world.

Imagine a world without Hope! Where men take the earth upon their own hands and change it according to their will. The world cannot be too cruel. It gives to those who have nothing to lose anymore. Imagine a Sisyphus with Hope. He would then toil on his mountain always thinking that it would be his last climb. No, he will have none of that. He carries the rock not with the hope that it be taken away from him but with the pleasure in knowing that it is his rock and his mountain. If you still take these away from him by Hope, then you would have already killed the immortal god. He would no longer be Sisyphus.

Pandora made good of her name. Her name means "all-gifted" or "gift-giver." Ironically, she was sent by the gods to man as a punishment for Prometheus's treachery of giving man the secret of fire. The punishment came when Pandora released all the evils known to man.

But Pandora's last gift to man was keeping the last and most terrible evil in the jar. She gave man the gift of being unable to Hope.


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