Pandora’s box is an artifact in Greek mythology connected with the myth of Pandora in Hesiod’s Works and Days. Hesiod reported that curiosity led her to open a container left in the care of her husband, thus releasing physical and emotional curses upon mankind. Later depictions of the story have been varied, while some literary and artistic treatments have focused more on the contents than on Pandora herself.
The container mentioned in the original account was actually a large storage jar, but the word was later mistranslated. In modern times an idiom has grown from the story meaning “Any source of great and unexpected troubles”, or alternatively “A present which seems valuable but which in reality is a curse”.
According to Hesiod, when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus, the king of the gods, took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus. Pandora opened a jar left in her care containing sickness, death and many other unspecified evils which were then released into the world. Though she hastened to close the container, only one thing was left behind – usually translated as Hope, though it could also have the pessimistic meaning of “deceptive expectation”.
From this story has grown the idiom “to open a Pandora’s box”, meaning to do or start something that will cause many unforeseen problems. A modern, more colloquial equivalent is “to open a can of worms”.
The word translated as “box” was actually a large jar (πίθος pithos) in Greek. Pithoi were used for storage of wine, oil, grain or other provisions, or, ritually, as a container for a human body for burying, from which it was believed souls escaped and necessarily returned. Many scholars see a close analogy between Pandora herself, who was made from clay, and the clay jar which dispenses evils.
The mistranslation of pithos is usually attributed to the 16th-century humanist Erasmus who, in his Latin account of the story of Pandora, changed the Greek pithos to pyxis, meaning “box”.The context in which the story appeared was Erasmus’ collection of proverbs, the Adagia (1508), in illustration of the Latin saying Malo accepto stultus sapit (from experiencing trouble a fool is made wise). In his version the box is opened by Epimetheus, whose name means ‘Afterthought’ – or as Hesiod comments, “he whom mistakes made wise”.
The temptation to “stalk” others on the internet is for many, hard to resist, as is that temptation to snoop offered by a nearby unattended ‘phone. People put up various hagiographic profiles about themselves in which everybody is fantastic, wonderful and with tremendous amounts of experience. According to the internet profiles there is a penury of normal bog-standard people, these days. They must have died out. Image is very often manipulated, and the notion of WYSIWYG has made off at haste into the ether.
I wonder how many have opened a metaphorical Pandora’s box in their snooping and stalking?
Deirdre’s advice column in The Sun has quite a few instances where deceit has been uncovered by ‘phone snooping. If I remember correctly “Friends Reunited” back in the day led to many relationship break ups due to “old flames” rekindled. The trouble is when you have seen some gossip or read something you did not know about someone it can be difficult to unsee or forget. Yielding to temptation has consequences.
A cursory curiosity driven “I wonder what happened to X” can become something of an obsession. A casual quick “nose” is very different to an obsessive stalking or snooping. Sometimes it must be the case that it is better not to know, other times “finding out” might be helpful.
The karma of stalking and snooping is more secrets.
If the motive is light, it would be easy to say to someone’s face “I looked you up on the internet.”
If, however you have been stalking them, with a dodgy motive, next time you meet you will in effect have a secret between. By omission you would be lying because for most people admitting to obsessive stalking is not something they would do. A lie causes another lie, in nearly all cases.
It is very unwise to snoop through the ‘phone of someone with whom you allegedly have a relationship. If you are tempted then that suggests either a controlling nature, paranoia or genuine reason for distrust. Yet if Deidre is anything to go by, it is a fairly common practise.
Have you ever either wittingly or unwittingly opened a Pandora’s Box?
Could you unsee or unlearn what you unleashed?