Most everyone is familiar with the myth of Pandora's Box. If you are not, here is a brief summary: In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman. (Like our Judeo Christian Eve.) When Prometheus improved the lot of man by stealing fire (and other tricks), Zeus avenged himself on the human race by inventing Pandora. Hephaestus, the god of fire and metalworking, made this new woman , which the other gods gave a variety of wicked traits. Hermes took her to Epimetheus, who had been forewarned by his brother Prometheus not to take gifts from the gods, but nonetheless accepted the gift and married her. Pandora, whose name means "all gifts", brought with her as a dowry a jar filled with evils, which she released on earth, keeping only Hope inside.
For many years, decades, I have pondered that myth as my name is Hope, and I wondered what lesson it might teach me. At first glance, it would appear that saving Hope at the bottom of the jar was both a prudent and fortuitous thing to do. Like saving a falling star for a rainy day. But as I have aged and experienced the mounting chaos in the world, I feel that it would have been far better had Hope escaped with all the evils. She could at least have acted as a buffer to the negativity swirling around. Instead, Hope has been treated like a precious commodity.
Is Hope a thing with feathers that nestles in the soul? Am I stuck like a dope on a thing called Hope? These images make Hope seem so light and precious. Yes, I use that word once again. And in my mind's eye I hear Gollum hissing "my precious," as if Hope is like a gold ring which does, in fact, have infinite capabilities but which we clutch to our breasts, not always willing to share the bounty. The poet Mary Oliver wrote "Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?" Are you going to hold Hope next to your heart, treat it with kid gloves, never take risks, never go out on a limb, never fight for a worthy cause? If so, you are only living a half life and experiencing only a part of what Hope means.
Hope is a warrior, not an angel. Or maybe an angel with a sword and shield. Hope doesn't stand by in the corner and wish for circumstances to change. Hope is the change as she sees through the current circumstances, moving forward into a better future. If you think I am talking about politics, think again. Though my words may apply there, they are equally relevant for the child who watches one parent abuse another, or for the addict who cannot dismount the cycle of malfunction, or for the housewife who dreams of being an artist. The list could go on.
When Pandora put the lid on Hope, she thought that she had doomed mankind forever. Certain, she was, that we would all devour each other with Hate, Greed, Envy, Malice, and Regret. She may have been right. As individuals, we have the proclivity to do just that, eat ourselves alive as we compete and compare, lie and steal. We have lost, many of us, the ability to listen to our true voices. All we hear is the cacophony of negative sounds. But when some of us, for some inexplicable moment, experience Hope emerging, life changes. What was impossible becomes possible, what was loud becomes calm. Hope is the sound of no sound. It is made of things we cannot see.
"What is it you plan to do with your wild and precious life?" Want to change your world? Open the jar. Let Hope out.