1 thing leads 2 another. At 1st, I was turned off by E. B. White’s title, Death of a Pig, & was determined not to read it. Sometimes I can’t take much gore. But, I couldn’t help myself, I read White’s story.
I thought it was going to be about slaughtering a pig, but instead, it was about caring for a pig that White was going to slaughter, but ended up not, because the pig got sick & died. Poor pig. White agreed.
And then White said, “I noticed that although he weighed far less than the pig, he was harder to drag, being possessed of that vital spark.” So much is in this one thought. White’s talking about his irascible ten-pound Dachshund, a mini might, who he had to haul away from the hundred pound pig’s grave. Life is vital & willful.
I can only dream to write with such humble force. White led me to Montaigne’s The Essayist. I’m not that familiar with Montaigne, but somehow White led me to him. Montaigne is writing over 400 years ago in a style that I can now see informed many writers I love…
Voltaire being one.
Montaigne’s warning in On Books gives me pause: “Mistakes often escape our eyes, but it is the sign of a poor judgment if we are unable to see them when shown to us by another.” I struggle daily to find my own voice in word or song, & lines like that drive me crazy.
Shouldn’t it matter who is pointing out your mistakes? Am I even seeing all the criticism lobbed my way? Do I ever question the critic? What is a mistake? Turning right on red when the sign says, “Don’t turn on red” is a mistake. Using sentence fragments & calling it poetry, or numbers for letters as a techie innovation that seems to be leading us back to hieroglyphics, might be called a mistake by writers who stick to so-called rules, but is it?
Is having an abortion a mistake or poor judgment, or a logical choice on a planet where thousands of unwanted children die every day? I guess, Montaigne was speaking in the woo-woo Land of the Hypothetical. In Montaigne’s The Commerce of Books I found this jewel: “In books I only look for the pleasure of honest entertainment: or if I study, the only learning I look for is that which tells me how to know myself, and teaches me how to die well and to live well.”
That takes the pressure off—just read what entertains me. I never really cared about learning useless facts that add no pleasure to my life, anyway, such as there are more pigs than humans in Denmark, almost 5:1. Learning that 5.4 million Danes are subjected to the smelly poo of 25 million pigs informs me of nothing about myself or offers any clues as to how I should live or die. Most likely in this, Montaigne & White would agree.
Some days, I wish I could be White’s beloved pig instead of a worrisome middle-aged writer on the verge of something or another.
Oh to be immortalized in print by such an excellent wordsmith. The pig didn’t worry about deadlines or paying bills…or analyzing personal & professional mistakes. He did suffer a couple days at the end, but he didn’t go through the indignity of being eaten. Yes, he was dead & who cares, but how do we know?
No swell way to die/ this flesh-eating frenzy/ whether pig, man, or writer.
Dead or alive, I fear I will always feel every rejection letter, every no thanks, & no way—another bit of flesh off the bone. And who has time to learn how to die well? Living occupies my every waking moment.
Other days, I’m not so worrisome (like today), & chow down on a ham & cheese—honey ham for me. After all, there is no such thing as swine flu–it’s really the H1N1 virus.
I tug & pull at my leash, a regular feisty Dachshund. Let’s go this way!
Like White says, once you’ve given a pig an enema, there’s no turning back. Strip away all the trappings & just rite [sic].