Imagine every man who is grieved at anything or discontented to be like a pig which is sacrificed and kicks and screams. Like this pig also is he who on his bed in silence laments the bonds in which we are held. And consider that only to the rational animal is it given to follow voluntarily what happens; but simply to follow is a necessity imposed on all.
— Marcus Aurelius Antonius, (121-180 BC) Roman Emperor and Stoic. Meditations (167 BC).
Since long before the pig-bearing initiates first came to Eleusis seeking mystic truths through participation in the Elysian Mysteries, the nearly inevitable fate of pigs associated with humans has been slaughter.
Like the pigs Marcus Aurelius mentions above, most go kicking and screaming toward that end. They go without much choice in their fate, only grief and fear. They go of a necessity imposed on them by humans.
So it was with particular interest that I noticed how last week’s episode of $#*! (Bleep) My Dad Says on CBS television mentioned a pig that willingly went to slaughter.
In the course of the storyline the character, Ed Goodson (William Shatner), reveals to his son Henry (Jonathan Sadowski) the real reason for the divorce of Ed and Henry’s mom over twenty years past.
Henry had always understood it to be that Ed had cheated on his Mom, but now he learns that his Mom had actually cheated on Ed. Ed prefaces his explanation of why everyone had allowed Henry to believe that Ed had been the unfaithful with a characteristic non-sequitor:
Sometimes the pig walks to slaughter because it is better for the farmer. 1
Ed then details that he created this deception twenty years ago as his attempt to shield his son Henry, then age five, from the truth, and also to allow his ex some dignity in her post-divorce life as a single-mom. The incongruity of the above quote with the actual events unfolding was the humor in this segment of the show.
This initiation into parenthood does not require that you bring a pig as a sacrifice, but you must expect to give. You volunteered. And it is built into this willful participation that there will be sacrifice — times when a parent gives up something present or personal for a hoped for future good.
Do we regret the those choices, those sacrifices… Sure, maybe a bit sometimes, and that is all right. The character of Ed Goodson might be an extreme exception with his characteristic one liners, here equating parental sacrifice to a pig that “walked to slaughter.” All of us ‘volunteers’ probably feel a bit of regret at times, yet, while all those who rationally follow the path to parenthood will be asked to sacrifice, we usually find that the things we do give up – ie: sacrifice – turn out to be things that were never really all that necessary in the first place.
- Edison Milford “Ed” Goodson III (played by William Shatner) on the CBS television series $#*! (Bleep) My Dad Says; episode airing 10/07/10 and titled “The Truth About Dads and Moms” [↑]