There is an old story about a dirt poor Jewish peasant – let us call him Moishe – who lives in a tiny one room hovel with his wife, his mother-in-law, his two children, and a dog. His sole possession is a pig, which roots about in the yard. Moishe is beside himself at the crowding of his little home, so he goes to seek guidance from the rabbi. The rabbi listens to Moishe’s tale of woe and then asks. “Moishe, don’t you have a pig?” “Yes,” says Moishe, “he lives in the yard.” “Fine,” says the rabbi, “bring the pig into your home.” “But rabbi,” Moishe begins to protest. ‘Moishe,” the rabbi says sternly, “bring the pig into your home.” Moishe goes home, shaking his head, but the rabbi is the wisest person in the village, so he does as the rabbi says. Well, now things are completely unbearable. With his wife, his mother-in-law, his two children, and the dog, he could barely turn around in his home, and now the pig is rooting everywhere in the tiny room, getting under foot. Moishe goes back to the rabbi and says, plaintively, “Rabbi, I did what you said, and now my life is even more miserable, if that could be imagined. The pig is sleeping in my bed! What should I do?” The rabbi strokes his beard and replies, “Put the pig in the yard.” The next Sabbath, after services, Moishe grasps the rabbi’s hand, tears in his eyes, and says, “Rabbi, I cannot thank you enough! Life is wonderful now that the pig is in the yard.”
For the past three months, I have been dealing with increasing pain in both hands and wrists. The medical consensus is that I have osteoarthritis, not exactly unknown in someone my age. I have had a series of tests [next week something called an EMG test, in which they put needles in me and measure electric conduction or some such thing, sort of like acupuncture without the incense]. The problem with my hands is not exactly life-threatening, but it does hurt a good deal, and would have a serious impact on my golf game, if I played golf. Then, last week, during my morning walk, as I was looking up at a hawk perched on a power stanchion, I tripped and took a really hard fall on the pavement. My main injury was a blow to the inside of my left knee, which swelled way up. As the swelling began to go down, a big bruise appeared and it began to hurt really, really badly. When I got up in the morning, it hurt so much I could hardly walk. I went to the UNC same day clinic, and a young resident, after looking at it and consulting with his supervisor, gave me the official medical judgment: I had fallen and bruised the inside of my knee. In time it would get better. I was, of course, grateful for this high-powered medical judgment, and went home to take some more Tylenol. This morning, for the very first time, it seemed that the pain was less severe, and I felt a great sense of relief. This put me in a much better mood, even though the pains in my hands had not in any way diminished. And so I thought of the story with which I began this post.
Then it occurred to me: For at least sixty of my eighty-three years, I have been complaining about everything that I find appalling about the country in which I live: the brutal treatment of African-Americans, the discrimination against women, the exploitation of workers, the destructive imperial adventures of the government. Now, in what was supposed to be my golden years, I must deal with a despicable fascistic narcissist in the White House and the daily abominations he visits on the world. I daydream endlessly about what a relief it would be were to resign, or be impeached, or die. How nice it would be to see him removed from office, so that we could go back to the way things were before he won the presidency. What a relief to put that pig back out in the yard.