In the Greek myth, the gods of Olympus created Pandora as the first human woman. They gave her every advantage of wisdom and beauty, but they also gave her curiosity and a box (a jar in the original) full of all the woes of humanity. Her curiosity caused her to open it. All the woes—sickness, hatred, horror—flew out of the box, released into the world, except for one.
Hope is a beautiful thing. It is a child, about to be born. It is an unopened letter. It is a cake in the oven, rising. It is a flower bud. It’s a soap bubble, glistening in the sun.
It’s not always beautiful. It has another side. Hope can bring out razor-sharp edges and vicious claws. When its promises are empty—and they are, far more often than we can tolerate--nothing hurts more. The greater the hope, the greater the pain. The pain is so excruciating that we all have a coping method. We all clamp down, try to keep hope in that box, cut it down to size, so we don’t hope for something we might never get.
There’s a reason, in the myth, that hope is in a jar with all those other scourges.
Because hope is the worst scourge of all. Because the gods knew that without it, released from the jar, the world is black and cold. Futile. Lifeless. Unendurable. This, from a bunch of gods who thought nothing of making another man carry the world on his shoulders for all eternity.
Losing hope is worse than that.
We need it, no matter the pain. Hope is what allows a writer to send that first query. There’s a chance that the manuscript is awful. There’s the hope that it is genius. Without it, no one would write. No one would audition for a play. No one would apply to college. No one would invent anything. No one would fall in love, have children, start a new job, learn to drive, see the Pyramids. Hope creates art, builds foundations, creates societies. Hope is the engine, the one thing from which everything else grows.
A life without hope is a bleak one indeed.
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