According to Greek mythology, when Pandora opened her box, out flew all of the evils that plague mankind: sickness, death, turmoil, jealousy, hatred, famine, passion and fixed odds betting terminals.
On replacing the lid, the only element that remained inside was hope.
Pandora, the first mortal woman on Earth, was created by the gods out of clay and water – which would probably have marked her out as a slippery character in any story. She was given a number of gifts, the two most significant of which were curiosity (from the Goddess Hera) and the fabled box of tricks from Zeus. As it turned out, the gifts were a bit of a duff deal, as Zeus knew that curiosity would lead Pandora to open the box – thereby inflicting evil on mankind for all eternity (notwithstanding the fact that the Government has agreed to reduce the minimum stake on FOBTs to £2, in April, next year).
Putting aside the possibility that immortality might have been a worse curse to inflict on mankind than death. And that lethargy is probably a worse character trait than passion, the issue that most perplexes theologians and philosophers is why hope was left inside the box – and whether we should consider hope to be a good thing or an evil thing?
Some philosophers suggest that, if hope is all that we have, if the only thing we do is hope for a good outcome when the odds are stacked against us, then we’re simply prolonging our torment and deepening our disappointment. Now, I know that I’ve placed bets like that and, joking apart, when hope turns to desperation – for example if you need your selection to win in order to pay the rent – then it’s time to consider whether you have a problem with gambling.
There are people that can make money out of betting, but they tend to be obsessive about their objectives and work long hours – the unfortunate thing about hope is that it isn’t a replacement for hard toil, blood, sweat and tears.
But for many theologians, notably the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, hope is a virtue – one of the three greatest virtues including: faith, hope and love. Without hope, life would be dreary and insufferable – but maybe not quite as bad as a life without love or one without horseracing.
Hope is part of the fun of horseracing. When we place our bets on Bristol De Mai, this week’s selection in Haydock’s Betfair Chase on Saturday, we’ll be hoping that he can deal with the ground – which will be appreciably quicker than when he romped away with the same race last year. We’ll hope that he comes home in front because, at odds of 7/1, we’ll win enough money from a £5 stake to buy a Chinese takeaway for an average family, plus a bottle of wine – maybe even have some change to spare.
You see: greed and hope go hand in hand – whether they’re vices, curses or virtues, they form a life enhancing partnership which I wouldn’t be without – in moderation.