Pandora’s Box: A bad case of curiosity

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Pandora’s Box is a Greek classic that has birthed so many issues. It is attributed to be the primary cause of many of our perils and troubles as humans – or at least, that is what the myth is all about. The myth answers why there are so many evils across the world; diseases, war, and so on. Ironically, it is the same curiosity that people have in terms of finding out the source of these issues that apparently caused them in the first place. The name “Pandora”, means “the all-gifted” and the story of Pandora’s Box stems from the story of Zeus, Prometheus, and Epimetheus. But, I would cut down to where her own story starts from.

Two brothers, Prometheus and Epimetheus were Titans, also known as giants, and they helped Zeus with the creation process – creating animals and humans alike. For some reason, Zeus didn’t want humans to have fire, and thus, hid it from them. However, Prometheus stole fire and gave it to humans. Some say he stole it from Zeus’ lightning, while others say he stole it from the sun. It is said that Zeus ordered Hephaestus to mould Pandora – the first woman – out of earth, to serve as a punishment to humanity, for Prometheus’ theft of the secret of fire. The woman, Pandora, was moulded in the likeness of a goddess and given the gifts of wisdom, beauty, kindness, peace, generosity, and so on. She was also given the ‘gift’ of curiosity.

When Pandora was sent to Earth to be Epimetheus’ wife, Prometheus warned him that Zeus was up to no good. Still, they both stayed with her. Epimetheus loved Pandora because of her beauty, and decided to marry her. Some say Pandora was sent to the brothers with a jar, others say she was sent with a box, and the popular view is that the jar, or vase (or box) was given to them during their wedding as a gift. The instruction was that she was never to open the box. She was given everything she ever needed but because of her intense curiosity, she either stole the key or broke the lock while Epimetheus was sleeping and opened the box.

When she opened it, she released all the possible kinds of problems to the world. On opening the box, terrible things like greed, envy, hatred, pain, disease, hunger, poverty, war, death, and so much more, flew out of the box. She tried to get them back into the box, but she couldn’t. The last thing that was in the box was hope. It is said that humans have held on to only this hope to live and withstand all the troubles of the world that had already been unleashed.

While ‘Pandora’s box has been used as a metaphor to show situations where one opens up endless complications and problems from a simple act, the myth attempts to explain why humans must work to survive on earth, why there are problems on earth, and where the source of life’s troubles lie. Although just a myth, similar concepts have been proffered by other tribes, religions, and cultures. If you think about it, it follows the same creation story of Adam and Eve. First woman on earth, who ate of the apple amidst all the other things she was given. If you remember your Bible well, you would know that it was the source of the troubles of mankind.

The concept of curiosity has always bothered me. My thirst for knowledge had led me to the discovery of so many things I would never have known otherwise. It has helped me understand human behaviour, historical happenings, inventions, and so much more. ‘Knowing’ is just life to me. However, I have been cautioned one too many times to basically stop. “You really shouldn’t read about Alchemy” “This stuff would mess up your mind” Personally, I know there is a point where individuals would need to draw the line, because in truth, there is a knowledge that could save and another that could destroy. Just like the case of Pandora, there are moments where we just can’t help but know. We are given clear ‘need-to-knows” that either completely restrict us from peeking any further, or serve as warnings to tell us not to want so much of the unknown.

But then, how much knowledge is good and safe knowledge?  Why do we have these things around us in the first place if we weren’t supposed to use them? Isn’t life too short to go through it without feeding your mind with ‘the fascinating’? What we learn is that ignorance is a sin – a disease in itself. But curiosity has the power to destroy. So I guess, while your ignorance can kill you fast, from without, your knowledge can trap your mind in an unending whirlwind of confusion because at the end of the day, no human can ever know everything.

Also, curiosity can be good, causing you to learn, explore new stuff, grow intellectually, and so on. But it gets bad when it serves as a source of distraction from important things, or when you decide to devote your time and mind to finding answers to questions that just cannot be answered. My advice to all, and myself, is that as we search for knowledge, we understand when we need to stop – we always know when we are poking the wrong things. Otherwise, we would join the long list of those who have lost their minds from wanting to know too many things.

If you are ever not sure, remember that curiosity did not only kill the cat, but a bad case of curiosity is blamed for all the problems of the entire world as we know it today.

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