February 3, 2003
It may have been one of those lazy Sunday afternoons I've spent dozing in front of our society's culture cultivator; I'm not sure. In a moment of higher consciousness, sometime near ten years ago, my perspective and perception of that great game we call "football" was forever changed; it was an awakening that fell like gentle rain upon a deep green field of Astroturf.
And suddenly, they were chasing a small pig.
Perhaps it was the shape of the ball that awoke me. A football is the only ball I know of that is not round, and that is significant. When it bounces, a football is unpredictable; it bobs and weaves and hops and skips and jumps around like a greased pig. Ever seen people trying to catch a greased pig? Same thing.
Another revelation began to precipitate...like the soft, fluttering, lake-effect snow that falls upon Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
It's a story.
Surely, it was Daniel Quinn's thought before mine: "A story is a scenario interrelating man, the world, and the gods" and "to enact a story is to live so as to make the story a reality...to enact a story is to strive to make it come true" and "a culture is a people enacting a story."
Time out...I will concede that the game of football is only a small part of our culture, and may only be a short paragraph in our society's story, but for our purposes here we'll call it a novella, a short story.
Again, Quinn: "Belief is not required. Once you know this story, you'll hear it everywhere in your culture, and you'll be astonished that the people around you don't hear it as well but merely take it in."
And take it in they do, by the millions.
Football is a story about scarcity; for you see, it's not as if we all have a little pig of our own, with one extra. No, this is quite serious. There is only one pig. So we must all fight for possession of that one and only pig and use all sorts of tactics to get that pig home. It takes teamwork. And BIG warriors with body armor.
And there are rules.
It's only by chance, a ceremonial coin toss, by which the decision is made as to who begins this story with a kick of the pig, and someone must first kick the pig.
The team that ends up in possession of the pig must then strive to get the pig home; bring home the bacon, if you will. They may throw the pig to each other, though there are only certain combatants who are eligible to do so, or they may take their chances by carrying it. In either case, there are limited opportunities for an acceptable amount of progress. If those in possession of the pig are found derelict they must forfeit the pig or, rather than forfeit the pig, they may take their chances on the whims of the gods and kick it and hope for recovery.
And all of creation takes part.
On any given Sunday, and Monday nights as well, Lions battle Bears, Cowboys battle Redskins, Rams battle Bengals, Broncos battle Dolphins, Steelers battle Packers, Seahawks battle Eagles, Titans battle Giants, Cardinals battle Saints...on and on it goes, in any combination, and all for a little pig.
It is an epic battle of brawn and brains; of might vs. right and right vs. might; of intellect over force and force over intellect; of preemptive strike vs. cunning defense; a sheer match of wills (may the best of all win).
So we fill the arenas and strike up the bands with grit in our teeth and blood on our hands.
May the Lord God of War give us grace to prevail
and leave desolate our enemies in the depths of travail.
Catch that pig!
Catch that pig!
Catch that pig!
Let all beware the illusory swine;
once kicked and pummeled it boggles the mind
with twists and turns and spins sublime.
Free the pig!
Free the pig!
Free the pig, while there's time!
· · · · · ·
The Ishmael Community
Beyond Civilization, by Daniel Quinn
Michael W. Stowell is a local activist in Northern California.
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