It has long since been determined that I must write. Unfortunately that does not always mean that I can come up with anything to write about. Sometimes, that is the hard part, particularly since I have half-heartedly foresworn politics. It may be a limitation I have set for myself that I cannot live up to.
In his work Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle described politics as “the philosophy of Human Affairs.” I have quoted the English translation of his work; to be politically correct, Aristotle likely said this in Greek, not English. I don’t think Aristotle spoke English at all since English as we know it had not yet morphed into the language it is, nor even had a name. The polis were speaking some kind of language in what is now England, probably some Celtic language like Gaelic, which later Latinized after Britain was Romanized, then Nordicized, then Francophiled, until English became the sponge that it is now. Whatever it is, Aristotle did not speak it.
If politics is the philosophy of human affairs, how is it possible not to write about it? If I choose to avoid it completely and, say, write about pigs, I can only write about my human observations of pigs which is a human affair. Only pigs think like pigs. I can observe them and from my observations extrapolate what pigs might be thinking, but that is not the same thing as thinking like a pig. I’m pretty sure that pigs do not like the idea of being one of our favorite breakfast foods, nor do they like the idea of a glazed baked ham gracing our Thanksgiving table next to a turkey, but the pigs have not declared themselves with any veracity on this subject; so I can only surmise this through my understanding of human affairs, which renders it politics.
“The philosophy of human affairs,” Aristotle corrects me with a whisper.
I look around to see where the whisper came from. There is no one here at the studio at 3:27AM Central Daylight Time (it just changed over 27 minutes ago from standard time…a political fabrication). It’s just me, no one else.
“Nope. I am here, too. I’ve still been around, never having left, really, since my work has survived me. You are contemplating it even now,” comes Aristotle’s whisper again. I didn’t bother looking around this time, since my uninvited guests usually include Sophocles, Socrates, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and others of note.
I ask, “Isn’t my relationship with pigs a human affair?”
“Not entirely,” he replies. That makes sense to me. “It is only half-way a human affair, the other half being porcine.”
I am not done, yet. “But the only understanding I have about pigs comes from my human observations and interpretations of them, therefore, my philosophy of pigs is an entirely human affair.”
“Well, the pigs certainly play a part. Without the pig you would have no human philosophy about pigs,” he corrected. I admit, it was hard to argue with that, besides, Aristotle has a lot of street cred working for him since folks have been studying him for a long time and no one has ever felt the need to study me. It was a magnificent display of chutzpah to argue philosophy with him, but chutzpah has been a close friend of mine for a long time. I suppose if one thinks about it, I have argued with the LORD; so arguing with Aristotle is no biggie.
My thoughts turned to pigs and religion, thinking of the religious prohibitions from eating them shared by Judaism and Islam, which is one of the few things these two religions share. Expanding on that would be politics, well, maybe, religious politics, but it concerns the philosophy of human affairs, so according to Aristotle it qualifies.
But I am not going to write about politics.
I think of pig farms, pig processors, PETA, and other things about pigs, which immediately sets me off on a political tangent. The urge to write about pig politics is overwhelming, but I successfully beat it back with much the same effort as beating back a brush fire with a pine top, whereupon I am directed to thinking of controlled burning in public forest lands and how our zeal to protect them from the damages of fire has perhaps been misguided since by doing so we have created huge fire hazards. The politics of this crosses my mind. Even the feral pigs prefer a regular slow burn to a raging fire fed by the undergrowth we have allowed to collect. I am exhausted by all this thinking and vexed by my forswearing of writing about it.
Back, then, to non-political pigs.
I went hunting yesterday morning, saw lots of deer, including one magnificent ten-point buck that would likely score over 125B&C (the Boone and Crockett scale for measuring a rack on a buck). It is not deer season and I was not hunting deer, since I don’t care much at all about hunting deer, though I do enjoy seeing a magnificent buck and had it been deer season I may have changed my mind on seeing this one. I was hoping to get a pig in my sights, since they have rooted all around what we call the Canal Field, making holes as deep as a gold miner following a promising lead knowing that the gold is just beyond the iron pyrite though he has already dug halfway to China. You’d think we had truffles in Mississippi the way the pigs dig.
Hunting, though, is politics. It has it advocates and detractors, is governed by laws and regulations, requires the use of firearms or some other deadly armament, all of which are governed, regulated, debated, and argued over like zoning restrictions and a proposed mobile home park. I can’t write about that either though I can state categorically that the pigs displayed a singular and unique wisdom at not presenting themselves to me like the big buck did, and my impression of the wisdom of pigs is a product of my human philosophy and therefore it, too, is politics.
“You are right there,” said Aristotle, seeming a little enthused now, like he might have enjoyed the hunting trip had he been there. I’ll have to remember to invite him to go along next time. “A pig’s intelligence is a pig’s intelligence, independent of politics. But your estimation of the intelligence of pigs is arguable among humans, and it is entirely arguable as to whether wisdom can be properly attributed to a pig . . . that is politics pure and simple.”
“It is not politics to the pig, though,” I reply, thinking I had him on that one.
“No,” he agreed, “But the pig is caught up in the philosophy of human affairs and is affected, so politics is important to him as well. He has a significant interest in it, you might say…a vital interest.”
I pondered that for a minute. I had to agree but was not yet wiling to let it go. The pig certainly had vital interests…even urgent.
The State of Mississippi has issued a directive to all citizens, more of a plea, really. Due to the explosive growth of feral pigs and the damage done to property and crops, we have been asked to shoot them on sight. We can shoot them in the daytime. We can shoot them at night. We can shoot them with night vision equipment, from helicopters, with fully automatic weapons, in any quantity, except for, obviously, from a public road or across a public road, which the State still frowns on, and rightly so. If we have legal access to explosives, it seems that we can even use them against the pigs. It is a declared war. The pigs use their guerrilla tactics in a hit and run game, and we hunters use our sniper skills. Others use dogs to hunt the pigs, and the relationship between dogs and pigs is definitely apolitical, since the dogs and the pigs have their own ideas about each other and we are not privy to them nor likely to persuade them to change. The State’s plea squarely moves pigs into the political realm. We are encouraged to engage in porcuscide, which is far better than a state’s encouragement of regicide, fratricide, genocide, or suicide, any one or all of which states have endorsed from time to time.
I submit, after having written this tripe (didn’t I already write about tripe?) that I am unable to divorce myself from writing about politics, at least in the classical sense, the Aristotle-esque sense. It is not possible since everything boils down to the philosophy of human affairs. Even pigs.
I took a break and went up to the house to get me another cup of coffee. I smelled the unmistakeable smell of the essence of skunk in the air. It was so strong it invaded my olfactory and will now reside there for the next several hours, particulate matter from the essence of skunk now lodged in my mucous membranes, reminding me just how strong the essence of skunk is. I immediately knew what had happened as the dogs came running up to me, all excited and happy to communicate to me about the excellence of their predatory skills, except for Babalu, who sort of skulked back, a slight whine coming from his throat as he wagged his tail. I snarled at them as they all approached which stopped them in their tracks. I had the smell of skunk lodged in my sinuses…I did not want it on my clothes, and one of the dogs, most likely Babalu, had learned the poignant lesson of trifling with a skunk. I am awash in skunk. I must warn the women and children not to pet the dogs as Babalu’s soaking has no doubt transferred itself to the fur of the other dogs, just waiting to transfer itself to anything that touches it. All of Babalu’s athletic, muscular pitbull self did not prepare him for the endowment the skunk bestowed. He now sits under his heat lamp, paws over his eyes, stinking up the entire household. It’ll no doubt wake up Debbie any minute. She’ll likely seethe over the political ramifications of dogs around the house, urging me to bathe them, which will cause a whole different set of politics to come up, since I think she is every bit as capable of bathing the dogs as me. I will likely lose that debate.
The relationship between dogs and pigs is not politics. The relationship between dogs and skunks is not politics. My speculation about what Babalu may have been thinking when this strange, dark, white-striped animal, mephitis mephitis, failed to show much interest in his growls and threats is politics. The pigs would have run away. The skunk? He likely just kept on his lifelong search for rodents and grubs, for skunks are voracious predators, apolitical, and not really concerned about the most aggressive dog as he knows he is packing a chemical weapon that disperses the most ardent dogs, and there is little about politics that is relevant to the chemical weapons of skunks, other than the particles of it lodged in my sinuses and on my taste buds, which is a human affair.
I have a philosophy about that human affair. About pigs, too. Politics is inescapable, though certainly more fun in its classical sense than the divisive modern meaning it has.
“It seems the skunk may have been wise,” said Aristotle.
“Rather,” I said, “Babalu’s ignorance led him to do an unwise thing. The skunk was just being a skunk.”
“Now, it is all a human affair,” Aristotle replied, adding, “You may as well go ahead and get the bucket and soap and water ready. Those dogs need a bath. They stink.”
“Nothing stinks to a dog,” I said, “Except my cologne.”
“Have you asked Babalu? He likely has a different answer at the moment.”
I looked over at Babulu. He turned his sad eyes up at me and gave a soft whine, looking like an out-of-line drunk that had been maced by an over-zealous police patrol at a Mardis Gras parade. I thought about this. I thought about how I started out not writing about politics, turned to writing about pigs and the non-politics of pigs which morphed into politics, and ended up writing about skunks and the politics of skunks since skunks had invaded the philosophy of this human’s affairs.
There is no escaping politics. It is as inescapable as the essence of skunk clinging to my clothes as the parts-per-million of it in the air surrounding me exceed my ability to ignore it.
If you come to see me today, I wouldn’t pet the dogs if I were you, else you find yourself tainted with the politics of canis/mephitis interspecies relations. If it were only porcus. I’d likely get the grill going and the politics of that human affair might give me and Aristotle a chance to discuss old times over smoked tenderloin.
“Too bad,” he said with a shake of his head. “Politics has a way of thwarting our best laid plans.” With that he was gone in a poof of smoke. Or was that a cloud of skunk essence? No, I’m afraid the skunk will not yield so easily.
Now where is that bucket?
©2014 Mississippi Chris Sharp