“[Alexis P. Morgan] doesn’t just uncover truths, she’s a root worker, digging right down into the marrow, transforming cells.”
- Aine Butler Smith -
If you want to get to know + understand me, you need to understand the story that lays at the heart of who I am, why you’re here, and why I do the things I do. It has to do with reimagining the purpose of the story of Pandora, Ancient Greek saboteur of patriarchal paradise. In my version of this tale, she’s actually the hero, and the bravest human of all.
If you don’t know the story, here’s the short version: Pandora, whose name has been interpreted as meaning “all-giving” or “she who sends the gifts up”, was the first woman ever created by Zeus. She receives a plethora of gifts from the divine of Olympus, including an intense curiosity and a jar, called a pithos, which she is told has things from the divine inside, but that she should never, ever open. Pandora weds, eventually her curiosity gets the best of her, and she peers into the jar and thus releases ills onto the world while only the virtue of hope remains in the jar. In Hesiod’s version, she’s made an example of and generally treated as being weak-willed and stupid, an example of Zeus punishing humans for not following the authoritarian and capricious rule of the gods. But I’ve always seen Pandora as asserting her agency to make an informed decision to look in the jar despite knowing the horrors it contained.
In my vision, she was being incredibly brave and courageous in wanting to confront the evil and pain the pithos held, primarily because she wanted to understand its nature - not because she was stupid or wicked.
Rather than luxuriating in the illusion of perfection (be it perfect good or perfect evil) and the comforts of control, she reclaimed her most profound power as a mortal by seeking the Truth, no matter how difficult, painful, and frighteningly unknown doing so was going to be. Hope remains in the pithos because it was Hope that drove her to try to understand the gift that life gave her. The result was that despite the fact that she shatters the illusion of perfect goodness set up for humankind by the gods, she becomes the bearer of the most important realization of all: the reason why life is worth living, Hope. Nothing is perfectly good, or perfectly evil, there is only what we hope for and what there is through what we do and how we are in the world.
It's easy to find the enchantment of the beauty of a flower in a garden on a sunny day, when the air is light on your skin, and the leaves faintly rustle on the trees. You can fall in love with the totality of the miracles and mysteries that made such a luminous and mundane thing. But what's more miraculous - and harder to do - is to find a flower burned by fire and buried in ash and see the beauty it holds, even as you take in the fury that wrought havoc and disorder on its existence.
I started writing to free myself from the attempted degradation of my inherent dignity, and the erasure of my beauty, and to manage the grief and sadness of being invalidated and violated. I continued to write because it helped me free myself from the rigid narratives of my expectations and assumptions, because words are holy and nothing and everything all at once. But I kept writing because despite the odds - despite my hardened shell and inner turmoil - I am profoundly in love with the world and all her messiness. Faith is the expectation of seeing beauty in all things, even the hard and scary, and devotion is the courage to seek that beauty out, and my tenacious faith in my ability to retrieve beauty from suffering is what prompts me to create.
My work - not just writing, but everything I do - is centered on provoking contrasts with the rigidity of our assumptions, so that we can have the courage to wrestle with our doubts about what goodness, truth, and beauty mean in a world that is constantly withering and chaotic.
“God is Change
And hidden within Change
Is surprise, delight,
Opportunity, and growth.
And to be shaped.”
- Octavia Butler, The Book of the Living -