A “sentry” is, by definition, a specific type of soldier: one stationed to stand guard and protect a place, thing, or person. To prevent trespassing by the unauthorized, halt acts of destruction, that sort of thing. Phil Collins as sentry of the underworld, or your heart? Same diff. Your heart an enormous black cavern glittering with ancient sediments, and sentiments. Phil places himself at the gates, all five feet six inches of grizzled underratedness. His chosen weapon is a scythe; it’s fucking badass, he says to himself; my scythe is fucking badass as fuck. Gonna cut some fucking crops off your head with this thing. He carefully swings it as he slowly paces. Time of this variety is always hard to pass. Rimless glasses shine with the effort of a constant searchlight gaze. He seeks the unauthorized. The warrantless, the unsanctioned. A slick scythe swipe and they’re dunzo. Eventually someone walks up bearing their credentials. Staatspolizei Phil examines the papers. Seems legit. Something feels off though. Waves of uneasiness simmer under his skin; gooseflesh villages erect themselves across drummer’s arms; also, his tummy feels funny. Yet the papers are in order. And, at heart, Phil is more Roman legionary than Stasi, a rough bleeding red core of passion. And hope.
He lets the stranger pass. Arteries hum a soft chorus of “intruder” as Phil drums softly outside, a resting weapon at his feet, the beats sounding more and more hollow as distance is gained. Now, let’s shift our attention to the Traveler. He’s in now, the air is warm, wet, it’s thick with something unnameable—manifesting as intent tempered with industry. It occurs to him that Phil was the only guard at this particular entrance, and that certainly seems like an oversight. After all, he climbed hills and valleys, crossed moats, navigated labyrinths, sat atop a dogsled yelling MUSH for God’s sake, all to get here, this place with one lousy protector? And it’s weird in here, foreign, the walls throbbing in an unknown tempo. To be fair, the rhythmn is singular. If the situation were reversed, his heart would be the strange one. But the situation is not reversed. This particular Tarot card is upright.
Soon he’s at a precipice. Forgive the heavy symbolism, but the only way forward is to dive, and to dive deep. It’s a ripe sludge of sins and virtues, lusts and deterrents, and right now it’s black as tar. A hummingbird purrs in the inky distance. The Traveler blinks and images bloom behind his eyelids: a push/pull of hands grabbing him, rending garments, his favorite shirt, a blunt knife ceaselessly passing between his hand and hers. It’s not clear whether or not the hope left in Pandora’s box was meant as a boon or a curse.
And now I switch paths.
An email exchange:
Hi Steve, how are you??
This isn’t anything urgent, but I was thinking about the D’Aulaires book of Greek mythology recently (as I am wont to do)—specifically the section on Pandora. I wanted your opinion on something that has been bothering me since literally childhood, and as you’re the only other person I know that knows and appreciates it, I thought I’d try and see what your thoughts were 🙂
So, in the book (and I’ve done a bunch of internet deep-diving, which added zero clarity), Pandora shuts the box/jar right before HOPE has had a chance to flutter out. There is a disconnect here for me. I’m not sure how to interpret it. Is it good that hope has been left behind, as a protective measure against the ravages of humanity? Or did she unknowingly withhold the beam of hope before it has a chance to help us? Basically, what is the point and meaning of this!
I realize this is just a myth, and an age-age-ageeee-old one at that, but it’s been bugging me a LOT lately. I feel like I need to figure it out (or at least what it means to me personally) before moving on to the next train of thought. I don’t know, it just feels important.
When I did some online research, there were a lot of various interpretations, but they were all totally unsatisfactory lol.
Soooo…what do you think?? I would really appreciate your gut-instinct insight 🙂
So I just sent this to Steve, but I would like your opinion on the matter too…what do you think?
Mostly I have a bunch of questions. Even though this is a recurring rumination, why specifically now? And why each time does it come to mind? Are their certain classifications of life happenings (big or small) that cause you to go back to this pondering?
You tend to strike me as a younger soul (not at all a bad thing and certainly doesn’t preclude you from being a far more enlightened person than any old soul might be or be willing to try for) and a part of that is a breed of optimism, I dare say hope. And it is a positive beautiful part of your existence and your being.
A nihilist will tell you hope is an evil too. I never thought of the Greeks as nihilists but maybe in this one? Hope brings expectation and in a place where all that evil just got out of a box, expectations will most certainly be let down.
Then again, maybe the keeping of hope in the box, the not letting it out, gives hope itself of still being around for the ages. Like, all the evils that were released have the potential not just to wreak havoc but to be conquered, manip, or destroyed by man. So keeping hope locked until keeps it pure.
How do we layer and apply this to you and all of your life’s intricacies?
Well, this specific time, I was writing a little something, following the flow—and mentioning the Pandora myth seemed like the logical next step, which forced me to think more deeply about it, and I was like HUH and now here we are. Of course, the fact that Pandora was the logical next step for me also indicates that it’s probably constantly simmering below the surface.
I haven’t exactly noticed a pattern of thinking about Pandora specifically, but I’ve been really going deep into archetypical Greek myths lately. It’s all over everything I’ve been writing, and I kind of feel ok about it. I’ve been thinking about mythology in general; Greek myths are just what I know best. It must have something to do with my recent interest in tarot and astrology. Not only do both of those rely heavily on the archetypes all myths rely on to tell their broader stories, but it’s the…interwovenness of everything.
The tarot to me is basically a philosophical system. Each card of the Major Arcana represents a specific kind of energy, and they’re arranged in such a way as to better guide one’s journey through this plane of existence. Each figure and their placement is full of intent. You remember Steve saying the Fool is the first card and how he represents jumping in blindly to a new experience, like a baby. The last card is the World, and that one is meant to show the end game, the ultimate goal—and I think you’ll agree it’s also incredibly similar to Buddhist nirvana. I don’t know a lot about Buddhism (I should learn more for sure), but yin-yang and all that is representative of the delicate balance of opposing energies right?
So, combining all the opposing forces (both internal and external) so that they’re in perfect balance seems to be the recurring theme. Yin/yang, overcoming wordly sufferings and ecstasies to reach a higher plane of existence, etc etc etc. And the way the tarot is so intricately organized, and how every tiny thing about it is meant to symbolize something, and they all tie in to each other, and if you look at it from a bird’s eye view it’s like this complete symbol of all life. And astrology is super like that too. It’s all very neatly mathematical with no loose ends. (At least, at my current beginner’s level of understanding.) And like I said, these esoteric studies also tie in very heavily to mythology.
The myth of Pandora seems like a loose end, and that’s what’s been bothering me, I think. It’s not in line with everything else. Of course, I’m sure there are so many other loose ends in mythology, but also if you think about them enough they probably all wrap up pretty neatly. ANYWAY, I did some research online and there varying interpretations (in some, hope eventually gets out, but super delayed; in others, it’s the virtues that have been let out, humanity squanders them quickly, and the evils are preserved). In the earliest recorded version of the myth (some seriously lady-hating dude named Hesiod), it’s implied that keeping hope locked away was womankind’s revenge upon men for being susceptible to feminine temptations.
I also asked Michael, and through that conversation decided to go with my immediate gut instinct, and that is to believe the gods were benevolent, and whatever happened with poor little hope was meant as a boon. There’s my optimism 🙂
I kind of think that the ambiguousness is important though. Like your two versions of hope above. Almost like a test; what you do with it is the gift (or curse) of hope.
Also, I literally figured all this out in writing this email, so thank you, haha.
To be continued (I think).
Image is Pandora, from D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths.