Once, there was this man who wanted to be the best pig farmer in the world. He had always loved pigs. From food to medicine, they provided a lot to mankind. To him, therefore, pig farming was a noble occupation.
When he was young, he would stop by the pigsties in the farms nearby and surreptitiously feed the pigs with food from his own lunch box, looking around the dirty pigsty, making mental notes about what he would do different or never do, once he had his own pig farm. He did not like the way pig farmers treated their pigs and hated how the pigpens were never maintained or cleaned. So, when his turn came to own his own pigs, he set out determined to be the best pig farmer in the world.
He started preparing for his pigs months before he even got them, building a wonderful pigsty, making sure his pigs would be comfortable and clean and never want for anything. He spent entire days in the pigsty, cleaning and brushing and polishing. He read enormous books on pig farming and spoke to experts, often ending up disillusioned at their lack of respect for their animals and their profession. He dipped into his savings and even borrowed money sometimes to install things that no pig owner had ever thought of or any pig hadever enjoyed. Neighbours and friends came over and stared, some admiringly, some enviously. But he cared not. His pigs were going to be special.
When he was finally ready, he bought little piglets from the pig market, paying outrageous prices for the ones he liked. He brought them home in grand style, engaging the best horse carriage he could afford. He was elated, enchanted with his piglets, constantly fussing over them on the ride, and even giving up his seat in the carriage to give them extra space. For the first few days, he kept them at home, not wanting the little things to feel lost in the huge pigsty. He fed them the best quality milk from little bottles that he washed meticulously in hot water after every use. He never thought of them as pigs, they were his children, and he washed and brushed them till their skin shone. He took them to the pigsty for some time each day, wanting to gradually break them into their new home.
Finally, it was time for them to live in the pigsty by themselves. He left them there early one morning but he was beside himself with worry the rest of the day, going to the pigsty every other hour to see if they were okay, caressing them and cooing to them and removing specs of dust from their skin. He bought and fed them the best grains that his money could buy, denying himself even simple pleasures to make sure they got what they deserved. He ordered their grains from all over the world, inspecting and re-inspecting samples before he fed them to his beloved pigs. He loved it when his pigs came and nuzzled against him after eating his painstakingly selected grain as if to say thank you for his sacrifices and care. He worked long hours in his fields, toiling and sweating from well before sunrise till late into the evening, with breaks only to visit his pigs and feed and water them, often finding no time to eat himself. When his pigs swarmed around him in the pen, it was all worth it.
His pigs grew, healthy and happy, their skins glowing, their bodies supple and rounded. Slowly but surely, word got around about the best pig farmer in the world. Other pig farmers began to visit him. His chest swelled with pride when they praised his pigs and him. He was never ashamed to show his devotion to his pigs, never afraid to share the secrets of their upbringing with everybody. There wasjust one right way to raise pigs and he had mastered it as nobody else ever had. You had to love pigs and pig farming, he said. That was all. That was the secret. The rest followed automatically.
Soon, people wanted to borrow his pigs, sometimes for their children to play with, sometimes to mate with their own pigs. He lent them out without hesitation, smiling proudly asthe grunts of his pigs mingled with the joyous squeals of the children. His pigs would breed a new generation of pigs and create a new type of pig farmer. He was the shining new image of pig farming. All pig farming would change after now, he thought.
That’s when strange things began to happen. He was used to people visiting his pigsty and seeing children playing with his pigs. One day, he saw some visitors feeding the pigs and he rushed to investigate. To his utter shock and dismay, he found that a couple of families were feeding the pigs with food that they had brought in big plastic bags. The food was stinking to high heaven and it was obvious that it was household garbage, and stale, leftover food. The children were perched on the railings and dumping it over. He would have moved to stop them but the sight transfixed him. His pigs were enjoying the food! They were nuzzling the children as they nuzzled him! They were grunting with satisfaction as they did when he fed them!
He stood rooted to the spot, seeing but not seeing. He stood and glared at the pigs and at the food that wasbeing dumped on the ground inside the pigpen but his beloved pigs did not as much as glance at him, frolicking in the garbage as they devoured the foul-smelling mess!
After what seemed like a long time, he turned and went back to the house. The next day, he went to feed his pigs, choosing his grains more carefully than he usually did. Maybe his grain wasn’t all that good. Maybe he wasn’t taking enough care. But he could not hide his anger and hurt. Not that he said or did anything to his pigs. He was just silent, actually bereft of words, more so because his pigs seemed not to notice. They welcomed him and his food with the same gusto, grunting and nuzzling against him as he fed them. His sullenness didn’t affect them in any way and that made him ashamed of his behaviour and he resolved not to behave badly. That evening though, the same thing happened. His pigs ate garbage again from playful visitors!
The next morning, in a show of anger, he gathered all the garbage in his garage and emptied it almost directly on his pigs. He looked up at the skies as if he was expecting them to fall, but nothing even remotely like that happened. His pigs ate his garbage, grunting the same affectionate grunts, rubbing their bloated bodies against him. He stormed back to his house and that evening, just before the first visitors came, he picked up the foulest pieces of garbage and threw them into the pen in disgust. It disappeared almost as soon as it hit the ground, his pigs running towards him, grunting, wanting to nuzzle and wanting more. He was heartbroken.
Over the next few days, he experimented, sometimes throwing garbage at his pigs, sometimes feeding them the most delicious grain he could find, and sometimes he mixed a lot of garbage with a little of the grain. He tried bathing them with the most luxuriously perfumed pet soaps and then not bathing them for days together. Try as he might though, it made no difference to his pigs. They ate the same way, grunted the same way, nuzzled the same way and they always asked for more.
Usually, realization strikes like a bolt of lightning. But his realization was more like a screw bit that slowly drilled its way into his soul. The fault was not with the visitors or his grain or his garbage. It was with him, not with his animals.
The animals simply did not know the difference. They were pigs, after all. He was just casting pearls before the swine.