The day that Allison (Argo), Joe (Brunette), and I met here at the farm to talk about possibly working together to make a film about my transition from pig to vegetable farming, it was not love at first sight. It was love before first sight. Though they were objectively strangers – the three (four – I forgot Monk!) of us had never met – when we said hello and made our introductions in the driveway, the hellos and introductions were mere formalities. Even as we shook hands, playing out conventional social rituals, we were already so deeply in love that those handshakes and hellos seemed a little silly, ridiculous, even.
Allison, Joe, and I found ourselves already in love even before we met because we are all (Monk included) part of a huge, extended, global family, made up of billions of people who live in the world guided (whether formally or informally, intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously) by various and many cultures, some millenias old, some modern that hold compassion, kindness, care, universal love, and empathetic sensitivity most dear, and that believe the unfettered state of all beings everywhere in the universe is one of absolutely unmarred, pure goodness. We were already in love because we acknowledge and welcome love as the motive force of the universe.
It was a warm, sunny, gorgeous day, so we walked out behind the house to the patio and sat down at round table situated at the edge of the patio for the best view. The patio overlooks the horse pastures and the incredible vista of the Schoharie Valley, formed over the eons, where the Schoharie Creek snakes its way north on the valley floor between the ancient, gently rounded, forested hills of the northernmost edge of the Catskill Mountains. We sat on the patio and talked comfortably and easily for a few hours about pigs, about farming, about human and nonhuman animal relationships, about storytelling, about filmmaking, about depression, about beauty – we covered a lot of ground.
Though we could have continued to talk for hours more it had gotten late and Allison and Joe had long drives back to Cape Cod and Maine, respectively. By the end of the conversation, we all agreed that we would do the film. Monk had slept through most of the conversation, lying in the grass about ten feet from the patio, but when we got up to walk back out front to the cars, he woke and quickly stood up, wagging his tail, and then walked purposefully first to Allison then to Joe, or to Joe and then Allison – I don’t remember the order – and buried his head between their thighs, continuing to wag his tail exaggeratedly for a moment. His statement was clear: he was also on board with film.
Out by the cars, with big love buzzing in the air, we fell back reflexively into social convention. Allison and I hugged goodbye warmly, holding each other just tightly enough and just long enough to express more simply than goodbye – it was a conventional hug, spiked with love. Then I said goodbye to Joe. Momentarily mired in social convention, we gave each other a “man hug” – a superficial, quick wrap of the arms and a few pats on the back. I felt immediately deflated. The hug lacked love. But, it was too late to do anything about it. Allison and Joe were getting into their cars, and before I knew it with a few waves and some blown kisses from Allison, they each drove off.
The next day, Allison sent me an email to tell me how much she had enjoyed our conversation and how thrilled she was about doing the film. I replied, returning the sentiment. However, I was still frustrated by the man hug Joe and I had given each other. It annoys me when reflexively falling into social convention interferes with my ability to cultivate, deep, meaningful, loving relationships with men, so I asked Allison to apologize to Joe for the man hug, and to let him know that I wish that we had given each other a proper hug.
A couple of weeks later, Allison and Joe came out to the farm for the first shoot. Allison had given Joe the message about the hug as I had asked her to, so when Joe and I said hello, we gave each other a proper hug, a full on, bodies square and in contact from head to toe, lingering, meaningful hug, full of love. Such a hug, such intimate physical contact between two men should not be remarkable, but in our aggressively homophobic and transphobic culture it is such a rare thing that when it happens, it should be treasured. Ever since that morning, whenever we say hello after a period of not seeing each other, Joe and I hug that way, sharing love – just as Allison and I do – through intimate physical contact.
Every frame of the footage that we have shot for The Last Pig is suffused with the love that Allison, Joe, Monk, and I feel for and share so freely with each other, and that the pigs who brought us together so clearly feel, for each other, for life. The Last Pig is not just a film about love, it is an embodiment of the rich, deep, profound universal love shared by the global family. While a relatively small percentage of humans have embraced the global family, the family waits with infinite patience and wide open arms to welcome with a life-changing, loving hug any being anywhere that wishes to join it (us).
My greatest hope for The Last Pig is that it might encourage others to shake off the radical disconnection of our social conventions and become a member of the family, to embrace universal interconnectedness, to embrace – unselfconsciously – universal love, to hug, lovingly, with abandon.
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