Ah, look. Here’s a can of worms. *points to can of worms* Tempted to open it?
I wonder where the phrase comes from. Someone, somewhere, back in the annals of time, PROBABLY ACTUALLY HAD a can of worms. They were most likely told not to open it.
‘Oh, right. You’ve got a can of worms.’
‘Yeah. So. You’d better not open it.’
‘Uh, cos… er, y’know. Some terrible shit is going to happen.’
‘Because I’ve opened this can of worms?’
‘Yeah. Yes! That’s right. DO NOT OPEN IT.’
[man opens can of worms] [some terrible shit happens]
Of course, it could all be completely analogous. The can of worms stand for the blackest hurt within the very souls of us, which we never want to see the bright of day, but sometimes, unavoidably, and irrevocably, actually really have to. Worms is a good image. Twisting, torturous, writhing knots of slimy entanglement. Tinily vicious eels of hatred. I just want to get a big stick and poke them.
And that would mean opening my can, first. Maybe I’ll just clutch it to my chest for a while longer. It burns into my flesh there, but the anticipated consequences upon a grand worm-can-opening reveal make me feel a bit sick in my throat.
What would you do? Clutch your can and wait for it all to calm down? Or open that can and have a good stir?