I mentioned to Jack, as we sat down, that I'd been rummaging through my memorabilia, a trunk full of stuff that I'd been randomly collecting -- no, let's be honest, accumulating -- from my college days.
I said, "I came across a poem written by Sean Kelly, who at the time of writing was a student at my old alma mater, Loyola College, in Montreal. It's about Christ casting out one or more demons from a man and having them move into some pigs."
I may have mentioned, dear reader, how Jack had attended Sunday school in his youth, and he's still a good source on Biblical references.
"Give me a bit of background."
Jack said, "As far as I remember, Jesus was just walking along and a guy, or maybe his friends, came up to Him and said he was possessed by a demon. I never quite got that because he says 'my name is legion', and legion is a lot. Anyhow, the guy asks Jesus not to give him a hard time and to let his evil inhabitants move into a herd of pigs that are grazing in the neighbourhood. 'OK', says Jesus, and next thing you know, the whole demon crew flees into the pigs, which then en masse run down the hill into the sea where they drown. The pig herders then go to the city and tell the tale. So what was the poem about?"
I said, "Sean Kelly recounts the incident from the point of view of one of the pig herders. He's obviously pissed off: here he is, quietly minding his own business, taking care of his hams on the hoof, when suddenly his livelihood takes a running jump into the water and drowns! Did Jesus offer any monetary compensation?"
"Come to think of it," said Jack, "I can't recall any money changing hands. Tough luck for the pig herder, but that's not the only thing that baffles me about the incident. Why does the demon ask Jesus for a favour? And why does Jesus grant the favour? Why doesn't He just cast them out, say, into a tree or outer space or something?"
I said, "I guess if He was going to cast them into something He might as well dump them into pigs. I mean pigs were already considered unclean in those days, probably on account of the trichonoma the meat can cause in humans. But if pigs were considered unclean, why raise and herd them?"
"Maybe to use their skins for shoes, wallets or briefcases," said Jack with an innocent smile."
I said "And there's one other thing."
"What?" said Jack.
I said, "Why would the demons ask to be cast into the pigs, only to commit suicide?"
"What do you mean?" said Jack.
I said, "Pigs can swim!"
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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