Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Prodigal Culture

The prodigal son (as we heard in last Sunday's Gospel reading) left his father's house, blew his inheritance on loose living, and ended up working in a pig sty. As we know, however, he came to his senses, returned home, and was forgiven by his loving father.

But what if he hadn't repented? What if he had been quite satisfied with the work, quite happy to be given some husks now and then, and quite willing to stay put? He could have married one of his boss's daughters, settled down, and worked 9 to 5 in the pigpen.

Now say that they had kids, who in turn had more kids, who in turn eventually created an entire piggish civilization. They subdued nature around them to build ever bigger and stinkier pig cities, created pig-sty-centered arts and literature, and produced scholars who could document (and even eventually deconstruct) the evolution of their swinish culture.

If someone were to remind such people that there is a Father's House to which one could return, be forgiven, and lead a life that transcended the here-and-now piggishness of their life of porker materialism, he'd be mocked as out of touch with reality. The meaning of life, after all, is to be found in one's service to the greater needs of the pigpen, and after death one's existence will live on only in the memory of one's service to the noble ideals of hog-keeping.

The pigpen is real, after all, and has evolved from primordial mud: this can be demonstrated scientifically. Early pig-man held some naive notions of a Father's House, but this is no longer a helpful hypothesis; everyone knows that it was a psychological projection made by pre-scientific peoples. Such mythology laughably attempted to explain things without the means of modern pig science; now that we can make use of the scientific method, such mythologies are to abandoned by any civilized keeper of porkers. Indeed, those who persist in maintaining such mythologies are responsible for all continuing misfortunes, and should lose the right to educate their young in such swineless prejudice. We know, after all, that we and the pigs share common DNA, and any notion we might have of some imaginary Father is wish-fulfillment at best, and deeply subversive to the future of pig farming at worst. Let us imagine a world in which everyone's consciousness can be sufficiently raised to make them all truly piggish!

This little flight of fancy, needless to say, bears no resemblance to actual fact, and should be taken as purely fictional. No pigs were harmed in its creation.

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