Pandora’s Story: The Consequences of Curiosity

Posted on 12 November 2010

Some things are best left unsaid or undone.  I think we have all had the experience of innocently saying or doing something, only to discover that we have opened the door to repercussions that were totally unanticipated.  This is the reason why it is said that a lawyer in a courtroom should never ask a question of a witness without knowing its answer in advance.  Sometimes, however, because of curiosity, ego, or other reasons, we delve into territory best left unexplored and pay dearly for it as a result.

It is the nature of humankind to be curious.  And, throughout the ages, thinkers and writers have both observed and attempted to explain human behavior.  Although today usually employed with a negative connotation, the term “myth” is actually an attempt to explain a universal truth.  And so, the ancient Greeks told the story of Pandora to illustrate the downside of curiosity and entrance of evil into the world.

According to Greek legend, Pandora was the first woman on earth.  Created by the gods on Mount Olympus, she was the embodiment of an intricate plan by the Olympians to punish mankind for the acceptance of the gift of fire that was stolen from the gods by the Titan Prometheus (who represents foresight).  Although warned by Prometheus, his brother Epimetheus (who represents hindsight) takes Pandora as his mate. 

Similar to the Old Testament Garden of Eden, earth at the time of Epimetheus and Pandora was a natural delight with bountiful vegetation and a temperate climate.  And, as was the case with Eve, Pandora is confronted with temptation – in this instance, in the form of a securely-tied box that Hermes, messenger of the god Zeus – the mythical Father of gods and men, leaves for safekeeping in the home of Epimetheus and Pandora with the explicit instruction to leave unopened.  Of course, Pandora’s curiosity will not be denied and so, she opens the box only to have all diseases, sorrows, and other ills unleashed upon the world.

It seems that – whether in myth or sacred scripture – women have always gotten men into trouble.  Perhaps, the fact that men – for the most part – wrote these stories has colored them.  Yet, the stories themselves are meant to convey lessons.  The lesson that I glean from Pandora’s story is that we must be patient and deliberative in satisfying our curiosities and taking actions in unfamiliar territories.  Like Prometheus, we must perform the due diligence necessary to gain the knowledge that will enable us to project and measure the consequences of our actions.  By doing so, we can avoid being sorry in hindsight, as Epimetheus learned in a most painful way. 

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