How the Meaning of Life Comes Down to a Squealing Pig


A few years ago I had spent a good part of a day sprawled on my studio floor as I mapped out plans for the next year – events and services and offerings and webinars and travels. Yadda, yadda. I have to admit that with all my sketchbooks and markers and Miles Davis waxing in the background, I felt like a big kid playing with his big boy tools.

But then I thought about the word “services” and wondered, Just who am I serving? And how am I serving? And what is the meaning, real meaning, of all this service?

Psychologist Martin Seligman suggests that the meaningful life comes from being connected to and serving something larger than yourself. And I suspect there’s a lot that’s larger than myself I’m connected to.


That evening, my toddler girl, wife, and I had strolled down the road to the house where Jill and her husband live. Jill’s the hamlet’s dog officer here in the Hudson Valley who also gathers orphaned horses, goats, turkeys, geese, dogs, peacocks, and pigs. She has two pigs, a little one named Rose and a sow named Petal. Petal is huge, a pink rain barrel on tiny legs.

As we approached The House Where Jill Lives, we heard a squeal like death and glee, of squeeze and slurp churned in the same bin of a throat. “He’s not killing her,” Jill said to us as we walked up. “He’s feeding her. She gets excited.”

Then another squeal lit up. The pink toddler girl lurched from her stroller, excited with arms flailing, and flew down the path to see Petal, the grand sow, devour nectar in the form of feed. Girl met sow. Pink met pink. Squeal met squeal.

Galway Kinnell writes,

…Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them;
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

And I thought that evening of my neighbors and their daily blessings.

There is meaning in laying out the days, sentence by sentence.
There is meaning in serving others’ dreams to them on white boards and white pages and white screens.
There is meaning in bringing a girl face-to-face with “the long, perfect loveliness of sow.”

Audio version:


Share This Article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *