The Pig Philosophers

Once, in more sophisticated times, there lived two intellectual pigs on a beautiful farm surrounded by fields and woodland. One of the pigs declared himself a cynic; suspicious of everything new and uncertain. The other had more of an optimist’s bent. She was a sprightly sow, excited by the possibilities that accompanied the risk of trying something new.

Over many days, weeks and months of discussion, the two had debated the relative merits of their thinking. So much so, in fact, that they had reached a point of impasse.

They both agreed to a competition that would settle their debate once and for all. The optimist would attempt to prove that her philosophy was best by escaping the farm and exploring the bright green pastures beyond. Meanwhile the cynical pig declared that he would gain more and risk less by simply staying where he was. “After all,” he said, “we are so well housed and well fed. Why would we ever want to leave?”

On the first day, the cynic watched on with the other pigs as the optimist tried to burrow her way under the fence to freedom. Within about fifteen minutes the farmer had noticed, and he dragged her away to another smaller pen where she was locked away from the others. For three days and three nights she was kept alone and fed only the scraps that were left from the main pigs’ trough.

When she returned, the cynical pig merely sighed and shook his head. “I hate it when I’m right” he said, “but you do not listen.”

The very next day the optimist pig kept an eagle eye on the farmer. When his back was turned, she backed herself up to the edge of the pen and sprinted towards the fence with as much speed as she could gather. At the very last moment she leapt through the air and the other pigs gasped at a famous saying coming true. Then, with a sudden jolt, her flight was abruptly halted.

After much effort, the farmer finally managed to release her head from the gap in the fence where it was lodged. Then he dragged her back to the makeshift pig prison for her punishment, just as before.

It was five days and five nights before she was allowed to return.

This time the cynical pig tried not to laugh when he saw his academic colleague, but of course, he failed to do so. The optimist pig remained silent though and would not speak to any other pig she came across.

A few weeks went by and everyone assumed that the sprightly sow had learned her lesson.

Then, one day, the pigs awoke as normal and were counted by the farmer as was his morning habit and ritual.

Much to his shock, one of the pigs was missing and it didn’t take a genius to work out which was gone. For several hours he checked the ground and the fencing around his pig pen, looking where the sow had escaped.

Then, after arduous searching, he discovered it: a hole chewed in the wire. The funny thing was that it had been covered up impressively neatly by an almost identical mesh of wire. This wire in turn had been fashioned from yet another hole; in the small pig prison nearby.

Baffled and embarrassed by the incident, the farmer decided to keep it to himself. After all, it was that or alerting his neighbours that a simple pig had outsmarted him.

A few days later, under cover of nightfall, the optimist returned and she woke up her fellow philosopher with a few loud snorts. Hearing the noise from a distance, the cynical pig rose from his slumber and cautiously crept toward the fence.

“You see!” she whispered, “I told you I’d escape. Surely you must now accept the superior wisdom of my philosophy?”

The cynic pig shrugged.

“I still believe that I am right. After all, each time you risked everything and lost a great deal, while I risked nothing and lost nothing either.”

“Ah!” said the sow “But I truly lost nothing. Each attempt was an investment in the knowledge it would take to set me free, and therefore worth the suffering.”

The cynic still looked sceptical.

“But how did you know what the cost of the knowledge would be?”

The optimist smiled.

“That was easy” she said, “for there was no price that I wasn’t willing to pay.”

The cynic nodded.

“Fair enough then, we’ll call it a draw.”

Then, as he turned to leave, he added:

“But do be careful in the forest. Now that you have left the safety of the farm you must take on the burden of protecting yourself…”

The sow was grateful for his concern and agreed.

“…Now I really must go back to bed. Apparently, there’s something called the market tomorrow and I’d like to look my best. Sounds like a fun day out!”

And as the cynic departed, the sow bid him goodbye and skipped off into the woods.


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