Today, the people who haunt the blogs and freely spew their criticisms are known as trolls and I think there is a spot on parallel with that phenomenon and the point of this scriptural adage.
Here’s how the urban dictionary puts it:
One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark of such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks (i.e. ‘you’re nothing but a fanboy’ is a popular phrase) with no substance or relevence to back them up as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue.
Not too many people troll around at this blog and make a mess. But once in a while. It’s not too often that I pontificate on a controversial topic. However, many do. I was at a blog recently where there were a few trolls about and the topic was a disputed sort. Antagonistic little buggers, cloaked (quite conveniently!) in anonymity were pig piling, gorging themselves on accusations and generally being unpleasant and ill-reasoned. (Note that Trolls tote suitcases! They are filled with lots of emotional contents. Baggage. The more baggage there is the more the trollish nature flares up.)
So, it reminded me of the deeper phenomenon, shown in the “pearls and swine” reference.
Rather than readers contemplating or valuing the expertise in any way, I heard the sounds, “Bounce, bounce, “oink!”
So why is that? And why pigs and dogs?
In the Middle East in Jesus’ time, dogs were rarely lovable pets (except maybe to a few the royal class who had time to breed and train them to be lap dogs or sporting dogs that were kept outside and used for hunting). They were not as we tame to be and treat them today. At best they guarded the property, lived on scraps and barked at strangers. Most had bad habits, went scrounging around like tenacious vultures with paws, and would ingest anything, like dead and rotting carrion. Frequently they’d get sick on the stuff and vomit. Then they would eat that too. Yuck.
They were cited in Biblical times as a cautionary tail…er…tale.
As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.
Pigs fit in the same category. Most people assume that the ancient world couldn’t prepare a delicious and diesease-free pork entrée. Not so. In ancient Summer, pigs were eaten frequently (like me, they adored bacon perhaps). But, in Egypt swine were considered gross and vile. This sentiment seemed to filter into the Levitical laws for the Hebrews who would have been exposed to that cultural norm and largely imitated those dietary preferences. That meant Pigs=yuck. Dogs too.
Even now, dogs and swine both are in the habit of eating most anything and undervaluing certain precious things, jewelry from instance. They will even eat their own excrement, so I’m told. Omnivores indeed! I can vouch for the the fact on dogs, but I have little experience with pigs. Nevertheless, both have undiscriminating tastes, or they have discriminating tastes that are arbitrary and illogical. They also write the worst restaurant reviews.
If a hungry dog or pig, especially if it is untamed, from the wild, and thinks you have food, it will take you out and gobble it up and maybe a few of your fingers too. (I saw Bear Grylls wrestle a Razor Back once.) Best not to bring true valuables to the barnyard or wilderness.
This leaves us with a problem as writers or even as blog comment-writers. Do we bother writing for the public with so many pigs about? With so many unappreciative trollers who are ready to eat us alive, we often end up writing for the folks who won’t value it. I can see why writers close down their comments sections. Pigs and trolls and dogs appear to have a lot of time on their idle hands!
But finding the right audience is hard, even among our friendships.
A friend of mine said something like, “When I write I think about what you’ll think; and if you’ll think it’s good or not. I don’t like the idea of you not liking it.” I told her, “Well, if I don’t like it, then it wasn’t written for me–it was written for someone else, and that’s fine.”
We aren’t writing for everyone. We are writing for the people who are ready and able to hear us, best.
If pigs or dogs eat your pearls, remember that the jewelry was never for them anyway. They trampled you down because they don’t know any better and they couldn’t comprehend the value you offered. Hold the hope that you will find those who see your pearls for what they are: valuable.
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