Break the Pot

I have become rather intrigued by pots, barrels and other receptacles (i.e. πίθοι) since I started to think of my own version of Diogenes the other day. So, what of Pandora's πίθος?
All that is unsavoury in and for humanity is masked behind Pandora's beautiful appearance. Hesiod, in "Works and Days" narrates how Zeus, angry at being cheated, sends men, in Pandora, "an evil in which they will all joy, each welcoming in his heart his own ill." How morbid.
As for the pithos - well, she immediately spills it, though Hope remains within. Is Hesiod not also talking about what remains within and without in this poem? He keeps telling his brother: "put all these things [the wise advice] into your heart". The poem is in fact also written to instruct his brother in morals. Pandora spills the pithos: of course she would spill it, because Hesiod remarks, if offhandedly, "How much better the half than the whole is". If the jar were full, there would be no good strife to drive man to creation. And what we ought to be keeping, is the Hope in the jar.
As for the trouble Pandora unleashes, let us remember that it was directed to each, his own form of trouble. Justice is ultimately served, and the moral of the Pandora story is just that: "There is no way to escape the mind of Zeus." After all, it is Zeus who Hesiod invokes at the beginning of the poem: "Lightly he straightens the crooked and lightly he withers the proud, He is Zeus..."
But I think compunction is a main theme of the poem. It ends by saying that the man who avoids "all highness of heart" and lives blamelessly will be on good terms with God and prosper. If one is not contrite, one will be visited by Strife: "No mortal loves her! Only under necessity... do they honour her."
So, "How much better the half than the whole is, and what great blessing there is in mallow and asphodel." Workers rush toward some hint of emptiness, which they then start to fill. Their hope thought, is for emptiness, so don't think you must avoid it. It contains what you need!, writes a Sufi poet.
Pithoi are mystical because they are something around nothing - but those who are thick as thieves thoughtlessly seize fire, seize that stunning, wicked girl, seize what is not theirs. Judge like a King and choose the purest, the ones unadulterated with some urgency about "what's needed".
So the pithos, at some point, must be broken - if one is not going round jamming it full of "what's needed".  The broken ones are my darlings. And it looks like a tragedy to see all those broken pieces. I know, I feel that about myself more often than I would like.
This is why I turn to "The Excellence of Misfortune", the Epicurean ideas Cicero writes of: "circumstances occur in which toil and pain can produce some great pleasure". God has allowed some magical reversal to occur; so that you see the scorpion pit as an object of desire. In learning how to pursue joy, there is much pain. The best human vessel is a broken one, because we are not to transport material goods to Elysium, where the asphodel grows.

Creative Commons License