Or The Story of the Jar and the Mark

One aspect of the human condition is that we, mortals, have our Achilles' heels when it comes to learning from history. We tend not to learn from past mistakes. We seem set against picking up learnings from what has come before. George Santayana once warned us: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

In the Greek golden age of the gods, the lives of mortal men were tranquil. At that time, there were no women. Into that Camelot existence, Zeus orders the creation of a woman named Pandora. She was very lovely to behold. However, Zeus punishes Prometheus for taking fire from heaven by giving Prometheus' brother, Epimetheus, Pandora. In this exchange, Pandora gets a jar with the command never to look inside it. Nonetheless, Pandora removed the lid and out spilled plagues, problems, and an assortment of other evils. Into that golden age came the whirlwinds of woes likened only to those of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Notice that even the artist misnames the object that Pandora is holding.

Notice that even the artist misnames the object that Pandora is holding.

Pandora was horrified and quickly slammed down the lid. However, all of the evil contents spilled out into the world - never to be recaptured or contained ever again. Therefore, according to the story of Pandora's Jar, all of our problems are traced back to her. Zeus wanted to teach humankind a lesson. With Pandora's Jar, Zeus had gotten even with Prometheus for getting out of line along with teaching humans a lesson. From this mere myth, we learn that curiosity can kill the cat and the Greek golden age of innocence.

We have gotten the story down; we understand it...we think. What is more significant is that we forget the point of the parable. What remained in Pandora's jar. It was HOPE. A very wise god had placed in the box among all of the troubles of life the one thing necessary to endure the mess that Pandora created for herself and the rest of us. We still possess hope amid the whirlwinds of death, destruction, war, and pestilence. We have not lost hold of hope. Pandora, you and I still have the gift of the god - hope amid hopelessness.

Why can't we learn an important lesson lost in that mythical age filled with mist-filled clouds of time? Those ancient myths and legends contain great truths, which cannot only enrich our lives but also provide hope in our journey through life. It is imperative that we comprehend the message of this myth. If we journey through life without realizing that we possess hope, we will not even look for it when we are most in need of it. The gods have been good to the ancients and to us...if we use the gift of hope.

However, most of the time, we merely write off the consequences of bad decisions and acts as being the result of the whirlwinds of problems due to Pandora's Jar. Interestingly, we make the same mistake when we do the same and attribute the cause or consequence of bad decisions to the Mark of Cain.

Cain after getting marked

Cain after getting marked

The Mark of Cain has to do with the murder by Cain of his brother, Abel. Therefore, Cain goes to God and complains to him about his punishment. He fears retribution from the others inhabitants of the earth. Therefore, God marks Cain...to protect him from the others who could punish him for the murder of his brother.

How is the Mark of Cain and Pandora's Jar different? In both cases, the guilty party is given something not to punish them but to help save them from various problems related to the mess that they created in the first place.

Having looked more closely at both a Greek and biblical myths, what are we to take away from these teaching moments?

  1. We need to read more about what we assume we already know. Often, we aren't as knowledgeable as we think.
  2. We need to remember George Santayana's warning: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
  3. We need to apply our learning to our lives. The application of our learning moments should be applied to our family and the society in general.
  4. Finally, we need to live boldly. Goethe wrote, "Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting." The older I get, the more convinced I am that Goethe is correct. Life is too short to waste a moment of time in fear and trembling. Journey boldly into life. You and life will have an interesting trip together.