Critical Thought: Pig Hunt

The last six words are from a Yeats poem titled the same. Wild pigs are fantastic iterations of life. Literature attests to their majesty and viciousness— revolting animals come out of the hills to trowel and besmirch the cropland. Changing them into industrial pork has produced problems. Men have forgotten this fact, said the fox, that you are responsible forever for something you tame. So the saying goes: the unexamined life is not worth living. I say: the examined life is not worth living. To examine something is, at some level, to distrust it. To examine one’s life precludes it. This reversed aphorism isn’t exactly accurate, but it offers insight the original lacks. Part of literature’s value derives from the extent to which it affronts or vindicates a reader’s conception of good and evil. However, literature gives pleasure by releasing the reader from the task of locating an event on that continuum. I know that meat as it is eaten undermines the sanctity of nature. Ideally, I would hunt the animal with a spear and likeminded friends. But that’s not happening. What I like about literature is that it portrays such cognitive dissonance as a vital principle. It says, yes, your weakness and misapprehension of the world are mighty guides. Let us walk together this path of enlightenment and escapism. To really execute its premise, whatever that is, literature must be a reversible aphorism.

Ari Feld was born and grew to young manhood in the Midwest. He got his MFA from Umass Amherst and currently lives in Barcelona with his wife.

The Pig Hunt

“I will want to have done something with my life,” Sammy said. His yearning presented a challenge, grammatically, to say nothing of the difficulty of extracting the fulfillment he supposed the unknown accomplishment might offer.

“Let’s say we go on a pig hunt,” he said. “You know, we’ll revel in the kill and it will be ecological.”

I chided myself for even fantasizing about an unmediated encounter with the Real. Obviously, we would have to hire a guide and rent his/her equipment, the cost of which would far exceed any expense we hoped to save by killing and consuming the animal ourselves. All of the hunt’s trappings would only serve to remind us that we could never have independently achieved the circumstances that were to validate and defy, in Sammy’s mind at least, his personhood. In fact, we would only be performing the performativity of masculinity. In order to actually perform our masculinity we would have to have belonged to a culture or subculture that hunted as a matter of course, even if only atavistically. Our atavism was imported and possibly genderist. The entire semiotic event produced loiny tinglings that seldom accompany my experiences, girded as they are by comprehension and insight.

“Okay, Sammy,” I said. “I will help you cope with your potential future regret. Indeed, friend, notice that by employing the future perfect you, perhaps unconsciously, acknowledged that the anxiety that prompted this desire arises from a future anxiety that you have not even allowed yourself to experience.”

“Uh-huh,” Sammy said. “I’ve got present anxiety. I’ve got present perfect anxiety: I have been anxious for a long time now. You have, too. You have, too. But, you’re not grieving.”

“I grieve,” I said.

“You grieve for the world, but not for yourself,” Sammy said. “Let’s kill something.”

I arrived at Sammy’s house. He was digging in the garage, sorting his camping and athletic supplies, sneezing in the miasma of awakened mold.

“I sent the family into the city,” he said. “Actually, Eva took the kids. She disapproves of my inability to suffer quietly. Sweet fuck, can you blame her? I certainly tire of listening to her insist that I thrashed the last of our happiness. Anyhow, check those boxes. I think we might have the Lawn Jarts in there.”

I noticed javelins strapped to the rack of his hybrid. The loiny tingle loosened my spatial imagination. “Bring that bike carriage you drag your children in,” I said, “so we can haul the carcass out.”

“It’s already in the car,” Sammy said.

We drove into the golden hills. Trees spattered the landscape, squatting on the sheen and multiplying as we ascended, gnarling together until a forest had gathered. We parked in a clearing at the trailhead.

Sammy stared at the path and made the clucking noise that his wife hated. “Listen,” he said.

“Yes?” I said.

“We are supposed to enjoy the beasts of the land, to walk naked as we please through the fields, to bathe in the streams, to fondle—.”

“You’re fondling the pastoral fantasy that has excited/confused the cultural imagination of urbanites ever since the Greeks yoked their first slaves.”

“Fuck your opinion,” Sammy said. “Are you here to help me cope, or to belittle the fear and stupidity that I use to customize my life?”

“I apologize,” I said, “for locating your perspective in the context of reality.”

“Sheesh,” he said and quit the vehicle.

We gathered our gear and set out on the trail, whose marker indicated that we should have deemed ourselves to be in good cardiovascular health before proceeding. The path crackled and released its bevy of odors, last year’s dead vegetation fermenting under the thatch of sunlight that penetrated the canopy, the crotch-smelling flowers, the manly sweat that the exertion frothed from our bodies, and the demented stench of slaughter that gathered as we crested a rise at the edge of the nature preserve and looked down into the valley of the black pig.

by Ari Feld