It really wasn't Pandora's fault.
Prometheus, her brother-in-law, angered Zeus who, for some arcane reasons (it's all Greek to me), gave Pandora the box of sins, telling her never to open it. Certain that, just like a woman, she would not listen to him (Chauvinistic-pig god!). Which she did, releasing all the evils in the world. With the exception of hope.
I have trouble with hope.
Is it a sin or not? It was in that damned box and is, therefore a sin by definition.
Yet, people live for it. Yet, 'tis the season, and hope is the mantra for the coming year, a year of peace, good health, joy. Even as we face Newtown, war, famine all sprinkled over the world like universal salt and pepper. Even as we read our newspapers and watch our televisions to see such hatred and bigotry, such lack of sanity and compassion, as would make the Greek gods' reign look like pacifism. And yet, we are told to hope.
I want to be able to hope.
I might say that on certain days, I am hungry for hope, hungry to be able to think that my hoping will make a difference. So, I asked my doctor for a prescription, but he wouldn't give me one. Beside, he said, no pharmacy could fill it. Medicare doesn't cover it. Useless was the search through malls, supermarkets, catalogs. The Oxford English Dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus offered mere definition. Even my beloved Dell computer — I hit "Help" on the menu, but I don't want to manage bookmarks or create columns.
There was only one place left: my mind.
In desperation, I pondered: What if (is this not said to be the season of love?) Zeus was not as cantankerous as he was said to be. Maybe he had his moments. Maybe he thought even Pandora (albeit a woman) deserved a break. Maybe his male, iron, heart softened ("the poor woman") and along with the evils, he put into the box a tiny box of hope, marked with her name. Tied it with a ribbon, wrote her name on the box. So she'd know it was all right. Glued it to the inside cover of the box so it wouldn't fly out with the sins.
Don't laugh. In a world which often seems to be beyond sanity, beyond computer analyses, beyond any EKG or MRI, is it so bad to tell yourself that maybe Zeus had a soupcon of humanity? Is it so bad to hope that the wish for a better year might make it better? Why else should we floss our teeth, take our vitamins, read Shakespeare, look both ways when we cross the street?
Daily, there are more pills to take, more muscles and bones that send out more grievous groans; daily, the stethoscope hears new rumblings and grumblings. Daily, life still exists and life still needs and there must be possibilities, for without them, how will we face the mornings?
I have been known, more than once, to say that if, as Emily Dickinson wrote, hope is the thing with feathers, mine has flown the coop. That hope is fabrication, a myth; a topic for Hallmark cards; a Band-Aid for pain.
And here I am, contemplating the benevolence of an ancient Greek god. Four score and — no matter how many more — years, and I need to know, in the face of the reality of life, that there can be possibilities. Hearing myself (Oh, God! — Greek or otherwise) offering the wish, the hope, that in the coming year, we may all find some measure of peace, surcease from pain. A lack of grief. The persistence of love. The hope — for what else have we? — that there will be those days when we wake up singing.
Trying hard to believe it.
Even for you, Zeus. Even for you.
Lila Beldock Cohen lives in Manchester.