The first woman on Earth, according to Greek mythology, was Pandora. She was given a box from the gods with the strict instruction to not open it – under any circumstance. Being mortal, she was prone to inquisitiveness and couldn’t resist the temptation to see what was inside. Evils of the world, pain, hate, destructiveness and starvation, were released. Frightened at what she had unleashed she quickly closed the lid before the last thing in the box could escape. That thing was hope.
Hope isn’t a wish but a true belief that things will be better in the future. It’s not wishful thinking but a certainty there’ll be improvement even when there’s no substantiation anything will change. The beauty of hope is that it encompasses a wide spectrum of what we sincerely believe in.
Some versions of the Pandora fable above retells it as her discarding the box and going about comforting those suffering from her indiscretion. Other interpretations has hope remaining in the box and humankind being tormented because of the disrespect shown to the gods. However, one would question that if hope was in the box with evils in the first place, does it mean it too is wicked? The ancient Greeks thought that fate was preordained, making hope a deception. The dour philosopher Nietzsche would’ve agreed calling hope “the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.”
Even still, there’s something engaging and appealing about hope – especially when times are bleak. The poet, Emily Dickinson, wrote it best what hope is: a bird that continues to sing despite not knowing the words, despite being stuck in a storm, despite the worst of conditions. The singing bird that keeps others warm without asking for anything in return. Yet, one can argue that hope does make demands while offering joy, peace, protection, comfort and a way forward through the darkest of days and nights.
For those that choose a better life ahead, hope will carry them there; or we can choose to allow ourselves to succumb to human failings and misery. The choice is ours to make: believe in a better life ahead or leave hope in Pandora’s Box.
Tullio Orlando, MSW RSW
Executive Director, CARITAS