During a "Science on Tap" event here in PDX a week or so ago, the author of "Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology" talked about her book and mentioned Pandora as one of the first robots. It's an interesting take on a genesis story I had largely forgotten in lieu of Pandora's extremely notorious "box" of evils (it was actually a jar, pithos, not a box #didyallknow). I would not have classed Pandora a robot but instead called her merely the first human woman. Since she married, had children, and died -- none of which is typical robot behavior. Nevertheless, I do want to read Adrienne Mayor's book.
In the Greek myth, Pandora (her name means "all" and "gifted," so "all-gifted" or "all-giving") was the first "mortal woman," fashioned by the Greek gods long after men had been. Her claim to fame -- that dreaded container full of woe -- was actually a wedding present from Zeus, because in the panoply of jackass, jealous Greek deities, Zeus was the biggest jealous jackass of them all. She herself was meant to be a curse and destruction to mankind as well; that's why Zeus wanted her made in the first place. He was pissed off because one of the other gods had given fire to men so he wanted to curse men -- in an absurdly passive-aggressive way. (Striking parallels between female as curse to male, per the Greeks, and female as gateway to evil, per the Judeo-Christian myth. It's a historical theme in mythology, this gullibility and suggestibility of men and the depraved origins of women. Why is that? #futurebookidea ... although surely some smart academic has already traced this correlation from the dawn of time to #MeToo.) Men had already been created, so apparently creating a woman wasn't particularly notable. Pandora, like Eve (whose name means "to breathe" or "to live"), was designed with beauty and cunning and merely as the spare, to serve and assist the excellent firstborn male. Then she was given this jar that she would surely open out of curiosity; that's sort of the definition of being set up to fail catastrophically, isn't it?
Image: Pandora's Jar Evil Wiki
It got me thinking about so many things: the baked-in loathing and fear of womankind per these religious origin story myths, the consistent and not-very-flattering motif of men-as-hapless-sheep led astray by a hard wind or a pretty face, and the strange, tense relationship I have with Greek and Roman myth, equal parts allure and appall, and myth in general (readers might have noticed the name of this blog, and its potential reference to one of the mythological first women). I also pondered how much easier my own dearth-of-friends would be if I could make my own Pandora, like baking gingerbread girlfriends in the oven. Honestly, at times like this, the fascination I have for Shelley's Frankenstein story seems creepier than usual. And this potential "make a best mate" takes a hard right turn into narcissism (Narcissus), yet another foundational Greek myth, when I realize I really just want a twin or my own Mini Me -- someone my own age, with all the same relational pathologies (recovering southerner, recovering theist, recovering accountant, etc. etc.). Perhaps this is just the usual lot in life for a girl with no sisters. Or maybe this is ultimately why people have children.
But since I am neither particularly good at biology, cloning, nor interested in fresh obituaries, I pondered writing a "friendship personals ad," as I have considered doing multiple times over the years. (I hear urban myths about others doing this same thing on CraigsList, but there's never any evidence of how effective it is. I wonder if Meetup.com grew out of some desire to "place an online ad for friends.") I spent the last several days playing with what a current version would say. I managed to write an updated version, with still no firm plan to do anything more than post it here on this never-read blog.
The list of desired traits in my ad has shrunk over the years, because my experience of the adage "there are lots of fish in the sea" is that there are not as many fish as one is lead to believe. However, just any old fish won't do when one seeks a bestie, so I pared the ideals down to a few sweeping specifics and unfurled this with my pen:
MWF seeks avid, semi-literary reader, who resides on the West side, is a non-theist that loves both Star Trek and green garden things, has struggled with depression, anxiety, or both and can handle the existence of this in others with kindness and support, who is semi-active but not obsessed with health and exercise, extremely fond of gin or whiskey, and pretty keen on profanity use. No parents of young kids, you are preferably childless -- but if you have 90% of the rest of it, I'll put up with the kids.
An ideal Pandora would be a woman like me -- over 45 (for whatever reason, most of my friends have always been a good bit younger then me). And childless-by-choice. She has the time and energy of a non-parent and a healthy, mature marriage. "She" could be a he ... most likely a gay he, haha! But I wanted to be open to potential variety. I live in PDX; straight men are not troglodytes here as a general rule (not that there's anything wrong with living in a cave, just with THINKING like you live in a cave). Most of my current friends are gay men ... who live in another region of the country -- so proximity is really, really important. If I were going to make her/him out of clay myself, s/he'd be red-headed and blue-eyed, but why pick that level of nit. This is more about substance than style (and ain't that always the case in my world).
It's telling what I lead with, where I ranked these descriptors. Being a bibliophile is most important; it's the single most defining trait I can think to convey about myself. I want to spend a lot more time with people who read often and at volume. And proximity matters; I have found that in Poetland, if one is more than a 10-minute drive away from another person, the distance might as well be another town/county/state. I don't know if it's the traffic, the rain, or my own age group, but we do not do a lot of driving around. Besides, life is too short to spend it staring too long or too often at brake lights; I gave too many years away already to gridlock and rush hour, and I don't know how much time I have left. So I choose not to spend it in cars on surface streets. If I can't meet Pandora at work and see him/her there, she/he needs to live close to my hood. Since most non-theists are okay with adult language, adult cocktails, and adults-only activity, the wild card Nice To Haves remain finding something other than books to bond over, and for me that would ideally be Trek or plants or a lived experience with melancholy. I tacked on the health bit as a random gambit to better myself via an area I normally largely ignore and do not do with others -- I'm a solo work-out person. Groups and crowds are not my natural habitat, so sweating, panting, and passing out is largely done in private.
So. There it is, my 2018-19 recipe for Pandora. Should anyone reading this know someone of this description, have them send me a comment or message, m'kay?
“You do have a story inside you; it lies articulate and waiting to be written — behind your silence and your suffering.”
― Anne Rice, "Pandora"