27 January 2011

Post 306: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Sausages

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt. ISBN: 9780316080026.

Tom Holt's novel starts with a description of pigs as being long thinking animals. They are animals that have time to devote to deep thoughts because they can't read or write and of course they lack opposable thumbs. Of course most of the porcine intellect likely would have been used for foraging and survival in the wild, but I'm fully willing to believe that they are smart enough to observe and think about nature and deduce the laws of physics, etc. as they might pertain to being a pig. Pigs are not dumb animals, at least not compared to many of our other domesticated creatures.

I kind of envy them in some ways.

Pigs get taken care of and have nothing to worry about. Granted our current system doesn't treat them very well (at least in America) and so they likely spend most of their lives focused on the fact that their pens are too small, too dirty, and too crowded. But a well treated pig gets taken care of for life, however long that may be before reaching sausage weight, and so has time to think. I almost wonder what advances we would have in literature, art, philosophy, and science if we had people who just sat around and thought all day. What would happen if we raised people like we do animals, only not for meat, but for their thoughts. What if we just had a whole farm of thinkers?

Or better yet, what if everyone was able to be a thinker for a certain period in their lives?

Why should only professors get sabbatical? I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would be able to come up with brilliant solutions if only they didn't have so much to worry about. What if everyone after high school got three years to spend their time thinking about the problems of society and how to solve them? What better age is there for this "think time"? Most people don't know what they want to do directly out of high school, and having this think time set up for them might give them enough pause and reflection. Their brains are young enough to come up with some creative solutions that haven't been tried before, and maybe if they knew that the rest of the country was relying on their brain power in the near future rather than "someday" they wouldn't be so quick to fry brain cells.

I don't know about you, but I could have used some down time between high school and college. I was excited to start college and get away from Mississippi and my mother, but I think a dorm set up where people are allowed to hold conversations about their reflections on a daily basis might provide some really great resolutions. The rules of the dorm would be three hours of solitary reflection with no interference: no internet, no cell phone, no books. Just blank walls and your own brain, perhaps a journal to jot notes or sketch. Then two hours of communal reflection in which thoughts are shared. Next, another two hours to research, plan, prepare, or create viable thoughts, interested parties could work together especially if they're related to each other. Anything else is free time.

I often wondered why regular schooling chafed so much: The pen was too small. While I enjoyed the structure of the day, it didn't allow my mind to grow so much as my mind was forced into whatever shape the curriculum demanded. How different we would be as a species if we gave ourselves the luxury of thinking?

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: Free digital copy provided by NetGalley.

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