“Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound / Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears / Do scald like molten lead.” – King Lear
The word “hope” has an oddly positive reputation in our corner of the universe: it is the stuff of greeting cards and political campaigns. But the ancient Greeks knew better.
Hesiod relates the famous myth of “Pandora’s Box,” in which the first woman, Pandora, (much like Eve) unwittingly opens a box (actually, a jar in the original) containing all evils. They escape into the world, save one—hope, which remains for humanity’s possession. Contemporary readers often interpret hope as a boon left to console mankind, although Hesiod makes it clear that only evils were contained in the box, and goes on to deprecate hope later in his poem, referring to it as “empty.” Friedrich Nietzsche provides the best comment: “Zeus did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torment.” Read More