In light of the recent presidential election, the phrase “opening a Pandora’s box” seems rather apt right now. I remember reading the story behind this phrase as a kid, and wondering how all the evils of the world could be stuck with hope in one box (or jar, if you’re reading the Ancient Greek). Zeus was said to have given Pandora to humankind as punishment for receiving fire from Prometheus, along with a jar and an instruction never to open it. She did, though, unleashing all sorts of plagues on humankind, shutting it just in time so that Elpis, Hope, remained inside.

I do have certain reservations about this myth, the most prominent one being its implication that a woman unleashed all the evils known to humankind. But for this reflection, I’m turning my attention toward the figure of Elpis, the only one left inside the jar.

There are several ways you could interpret this aspect of the myth. One reading of it is rather pessimistic: that hope, perhaps the only thing that may have helped humankind bear its misfortunes, was withheld from it and kept trapped in a jar. Another reading is that Elpis was actually false hope, a hope that would deceive and mislead us, and so trapping it in a jar was actually a good thing. The last, most optimistic reading that I’ve heard, is that despite dealing with all kinds of misfortune, people still have hope because it was kept.

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve witnessed what has felt like an opening of Pandora’s jar. A multitude of emotions have emerged from friends, acquaintances, classmates, coworkers, and myself. Fear, apprehension, grief, anger, frustration, and disappointment are among the many reactions I have seen in response to last night. And yet, at the same time, I have also seen hope.

I spent last night watching the election with a group of friends. One friend, in particular, was optimistic about the results, even as the night went on and friends pleaded with him to stop expressing hope. Despite the outcome that night, I deeply admire his optimism–for the unfazed hope that he did not relinquish, no matter how dismaying the circumstances may have been.

Hope is a complicated emotion. It can comfort as well as delude, blind as well as provide clarity. How do we discern a hope that brings us together and keeps us going from one that shelters us from facing difficult realities? How do we hold on to hope at all, when the world is changing and the future seems bleak? It may seem hollow to talk about hope right now, when the future feels so uncertain, so chaotic, so disrupted. And perhaps right now, for many it is. Sometimes the weight of a moment needs to be processed in its own time. But I believe that it is possible to look toward the future while acknowledging the messiness of the present.

I will not pretend that the future will be easy, or pleasant. A large proportion of this country has resolved to elect a president that speaks to what they want and value. That choice will have consequences, and we will learn what those consequences are over the next four years. Right now, though, I make my own resolution. I choose to affirm what I most strongly believe in: listening, compassion, and kindness. I choose to do my part to maintain a hearth and home at BU, a hearth where I can support those around me.

This is the intention that I have made. I make it with a grim acknowledgment of what is to come, and I hold no illusions for myself about the future. But I believe that hope survives best where the hearth is. So in the meantime, I will tend to my own hearth and those around it as best I can.

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