My name is Pandora, and I would do it again.
You may have heard that I was near a box, given to my lover by the Gods. He was told not to open it, and like a fool, he did exactly as he was told.
Bear in mind that we were ancient Greeks. Much is made (by some) of the fact that our Gods were powerful, but not all-powerful (when they made war on each other, there was none of this weird idea that ‘everyone knows who will win, but we’re doing it anyway’; how strange your concept of Apocalypse appears to us!—and they were, oh, let’s say, flawed.
(Much is made of the way that Zeus, greatest of the Gods, slept with many mortals. It’s said, now, to be a commentary on his immortality. I can’t speak of the morality of his actions, but ascribing human motivations to inhuman beings is a strange way to draw conclusions about humans. Humans ought not emulate the erotic habits of the Gods, because, and I will tell you this from personal experience, the Gods are so much better at sex than we are that it’s pretty much as if they are a different species, and they probably are a different species, and I really don’t care, and I’ve got another date with Athena tonight, and that’s all I’m going to say about this.
But that, while (divinely) lovely, is not the circumstance to which I refer.
No, if you know my tale, you know that this box, given to my would-be human lothario by the King of the Pantheon. He was told to keep the box shut, and he did, and this is because he was good and pious and righteous and dull, dull, dull, stupid, unimaginative, dull, and if everyone was like him, we’d have no more species. Trust me: I’m more likely to have babies with Athena than with that uninspired, sputtering torch of a man. It’s a good thing I’ve a certain ingenuity, and a hot neighbor as well.
(Oh, worry not for my husband. I do not mistreat, nor am I mistreated by him. It’s not that kind of story. I suppose I’m not faithful to him in body, but he’s not faithful to me in mind; and if my flesh touches other than that which was consecrated through the marital ceremony, the contact leaves marks in no places he’d care to tread. And if he sparks no fire in my head, why then we are even, he and I, and I’ll leave him to worship and moderate wine; and make sweet Dionysus mine. But those are other stories.)
So if you know the tale, you know it simply: the box contained all manner of human miseries, and in my curiosity, I unshuttered the chest, and thence did evils uncounted enter the world.
Ah, but here’s the lie. It’s said that the single remaining thing was ‘Hope’, a small mercy from Zeus. Some say that, too, went into the world, and thus we had something to counteract all the newly-flown ills; some say I shut the box just in time to keep that one thing within, and therefore, hope was never lost to our control.
This is wrong in every possible way, and it gives much, much too much credit to Zeus. (Who, by the way, isn’t bad at courtship, but he’s not exactly an inferno of wisdom himself. Again, it’s steel-eyed Athena who ought be credited with excellence in that department; in fact, I might list more than a few of her talents, but we’ve no time for digression, as I’ve got a very pretty dress and a very sharp sword, and I must make ready with the both of them ‘ere she picks me up at sundown in a wolf-drawn chariot.
Zeus is just subtle enough to know that if you give someone a box and say “Don’t open it,” it’ll get opened. Which ain’t exactly an impressive feat. What he didn’t understand is what humans would do with the lesson.
He thought we’d all say, “Behold! This is the peril of the restless mind; now henceforth shall we be passive, lest again we wake demons and heartbreak.”
Zeus is an idiot.
The real lesson we took was,
“Wait. Wait just one amphora-swiggin’ minute here. You’re saying, if we mess around with things we don’t understand, if we mess with the forbidden, if we play around with That Which Man Was Not Meant To Know, we’ll unleash forces we can’t even begin to imagine right now?”
I don’t think there was a box, basket, or urn in this city-stay which wasn’t opened at least once. I think something like a tenth of the population perished in the next week in a series of reckless, utterly foolhardy experiments. But considering the intimate nature of some of the experiments, the net growth of our population was most profound.
What Zeus never intended was that someone like me (and, dear hearts, so many of you mad lovely freaks are like me) would bring into the world a drive of boundless curiosity.
And though the Gods have tried many times, they have never been able to push that back into the box.
Because it was never in the box to begin with. It would never have fit; it’s not the right shape, not the right size, and it is absolutely not going to stay in any box long, no matter what the Gods wants.
I’ve many more stories to tell, but not now. The sun falleth slowly into the sea, the evening grows dim, and I see Athena’s chariot with, if I am not entirely mistaken, Dionysus sitting shotgun.
Got to go. I’m really curious about what happens next.
(as told to Jeff Mach)