There is the life that is ours to live, and there is the life we want to live, and there is the life that we have to live—the life that is forced on us by the context and circumstances of our life. We have to work within this matrix to live the life that we actually live. All of our stories are lived out in this framework. Here is one that is like every one:
Wallace Boggs wanted to fly. He wanted to fly more than anything in all the world. But there was one slight problem with his being able to realize his dream. Wallace Boggs was a 217‑pound pig. Now, you might think it is ridiculous for a 217‑pound pig to want to fly, and, perhaps, it is. But Wallace Boggs didn’t think so. And he thought about it a lot. In fact, that’s all he ever thought about.
He would lie on his bristly back in the mud and watch the Red Birds and the Robins flitting about, diving and soaring, and he would think about how wonderful it would be to dive and soar along with them. “One day I’m going to fly like that,” he would say. His brothers and sisters would pause in their rooting and grunting long enough to snicker and snort. “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard,” they would say. “Pigs can’t fly, Wallace,” they would say. “Isn’t he a riot?”, they would say. And they would laugh among themselves as they turned back to their rooting and grunting. Their laughter hurt, of course, but it didn’t change Wallace’s mind in the matter. In fact, it made him more determined than ever.
“Just wait,” he would think to himself. “Just wait. I’ll show them all! They’ll stop their laughing when I sail over their heads and climb up, up, up, into the clouds and do circles in the sky!” And he would smile as he imagined the surprise on their faces when they saw him swooping in loops and zooming by.
One day, as Wallace lay wondering how the birds did it, he watched a Sparrow perched on an over‑turned water trough in the barnyard. The bird pushed off the trough, spread its wings, and glided through the air. “That’s it!”, squealed Wallace, scrambling to this feet. “Why didn’t I notice it before? All you have to do is jump off something into the air!” With that, Wallace ran to the upside‑down water trough and climbed up. “Watch me, everybody!”, he shouted. “I’m about to fly!” And, as all the animals in the barnyard looked up from what they were doing, Wallace sprang into the air and landed with a loud “Splat!” into the mud.
The barnyard erupted in laughter. The animals rolled and hooted and gasped for breath. So did Wallace, gasp for breath, that is. He was ashamed and shocked at his failure, but he didn’t lose heart, or give up. Again he climbed onto the trough; again he leaped into the air; again he “splat landed” into the mud; and again the animals roared with laughter. Wallace spent the rest of the day climbing and jumping and splatting. The other animals soon tired of the show and went back to their own affairs. But Wallace kept at it—with no success at all. That evening he wobbled on weary legs back to his wallow and collapsed in an exhausted heap.
The next morning he was at it again. Only this time he climbed up onto the wooden rail fence that encircled the barnyard. “It’s only a matter of getting high enough for the air to catch me,” he reasoned. And he jumped out for the air to catch him. The mud caught him instead.
Back up on the fence he went. Back into the air he went. Back into the mud he went. The cycle was repeated all day long. And the animals began to look at one another with concern etched on their faces. This wasn’t funny any longer. The next day it was even worse.
“Hey! Wallace is on the tractor shed!” Louise Wiggins, one of the chickens, called out to the other animals. They all flocked, herded, and packed to the shed. “Wallace, what are you doing up there?”, one of his brothers asked. “Wallace, please come down,” on of his sisters begged. “Wallace, get back here on the ground this instant,” his mother demanded. “Leave me alone!”, Wallace shouted. “And get ready for the show of the century! I am about to FLY!” With that, Wallace launched himself from the roof of the tractor shed (as gracefully as a pig can manage such things) and landed with a loud THUD in the middle of the mud.
“Uuuuuhhhhh!”, said Wallace. “Are you all right?”, shouted the animals, gathering around him. “Are you hurt, Wallace?” “Yes, I’m all right,” said Wallace struggling to his feet. “And, no, I’m not hurt. It’s just a matter of getting high enough, that’s all.” “You get any higher, boy, and you’ll be flying with the angels,” said his father. “Now you cut this foolishness out and get back to the wallow where you belong.”
“Not me,” said Wallace, “I’m going to fly.” “Be reasonable, Wallace,” said his brothers and sisters. “Pigs don’t fly. Pigs can’t fly. Pigs just aren’t built for flying.” But Wallace would not be reasonable. “I’m going to fly,” he said.
“I’ve got an idea,” said Mildred Pinkins, a jersey cow. “Why don’t we sneak you aboard Farmer Morgan’s crop duster? That way you could fly just like a bird.” “That’s not flying,” said Wallace. “That’s riding in an airplane. Anyone can ride in an airplane. I am going to fly!” “Don’t be pig‑headed,” said his mother. “PIGS DON’T FLY!” “I’m going to be the first,” said Wallace. “You’re going to kill yourself, or one of us,” said the animals. “What would happen if you landed on us? How would we survive that?” “I won’t land on you,” said Wallace, “but I am going to fly.”
“We can’t let you keep this up any longer, Wallace,” said his father. “This has gone far enough. It has to stop.” With that, all the animals crowded around Wallace, forcing him toward the barn. “Hey, what are you doing?”, said Wallace. “Leave me alone! Stop pushing!” “We are only doing what we think is best for you, Wallace,” said his mother. “We have your best interest at heart. We wouldn’t do this if it weren’t for your own good.” And they pushed, and shoved, and pulled, and poked until they had locked Wallace securely behind the heavy doors of the barn. “Let me out of here!”, squealed Wallace. “Not until you get that flying foolishness out of your system!” said his oldest brother. And they kept Wallace locked in the barn for a long time. When they decided that he had been there long enough for the flying fever to have passed, they called out through the doors: “Wallace, we’ll let you out if you promise not to try to fly ever again.”
“Okay,” said Wallace. “I promise.” The animals looked at each other with relief in their eyes and opened the doors to the barn. No sooner had they removed the latch than Wallace bolted past them, sending several chickens, two goats, and a new colt sprawling. “I promise not to try to fly until I get to the Jumping Tree!” yelled Wallace as he ran through the animals.
“Wallace! Come back here!” his parents called. But Wallace wasn’t going back. Wallace was going to the Jumping Tree as fast as he could go. His time in the barn had been spent examining his theory of flying, and Wallace had made a few adjustments in his technique. “Legs out, chin up, stomach in... If I do that and jump from a great enough height, I’m bound to fly,” he reasoned. Now, he was running toward the highest thing on the farm.
The Jumping Tree was a big willow that leaned out over the farm pond. Farmer Morgan’s children spent their summer afternoons climbing up into the tree and jumping from it into the water. Now Wallace was going to use it to jump into the air. And he did. He climbed as high up into the tree as a pig could go and jumped into the air. And landed in the water. The splash knocked turtles off logs, and fish onto the bank, and the air right out of Wallace. He floated sputtering and gasping to the top of the water, and clamored out of the pond just as the first group of animals arrived from the barnyard.
“There he is!”, they shouted. “Get him! Get him! Don’t let him get away!” But Wallace had caught his breath and had one more destination in mind. He headed for Indian Ridge. Indian Ridge was the highest piece of ground in five counties. It overlooked the farm and the surrounding countryside. At one place on the ridge there was a cliff which dropped straight down for five hundred feet. “Surely, that will be high enough,” thought Wallace.
“Oh, he’s going to the Ridge!”, shouted his mother when she saw Wallace leaving the pond. “Stop him! Somebody stop him!” But there was no stopping Wallace. He had a head start and a mission, and he out ran all of them to the place where he would fly, or else. He walked to the edge of the cliff and looked down at the jagged rocks below. “Well, this is it,” he said. “Now it’s either fly or die—and if I can’t fly, I’d just as soon be dead.”
“No! Wallace, No!”, shouted the animals as they climbed up the path toward him. “Don’t do it! Please, don’t do it!” But Wallace backed up for a running start and took a deep breath. Buster Grimes, Farmer Morgan’s golden lab, and the fastest animal on the farm, huffed up and placed himself between Wallace and the edge of the cliff. “Let’s talk about this, Wallace,” he wheezed. “Get out of my way or go with me,” said Wallace, digging in for a running start.
“Sounds to me like you ought to do what he says,” said a voice from behind Wallace. “What’s that?”, said Buster. “I think you ought to get out of the way and let him get it over with,” came the answer. “Who are you?”, said Buster. Wallace turned to see who was behind him and stared into the face of the most beautiful sow he had ever seen.
“I’m Denise Riggins,” she said. “I’ve been hearing about a pig who thought he could fly, and, since I’ve never seen anyone that stupid, I decided I would come over and have a look. You don’t look stupid,” she said to Wallace, “in fact, you’re kind of cute.” “I’m not stupid!”, said Wallace. “And I’m going to fly.”
“That’s stupid,” said Denise. “Pigs don’t fly. Pigs wallow in the mud, and take long naps in the sun. They eat corn‑on‑the‑cob, and root in the dirt. But they don’t fly. However, I’m sure you’ve heard all this before, so maybe you should just jump and get it out of your system.” Wallace didn’t know what to say. He was suddenly very confused. He wanted to fly, but he also felt like he was falling in love, and thought that being with Denise just might be better than flying.
“Birds fly,” he stammered. “When birds fly it’s beautiful.” “You’re right,” said Denise. “Birds are beautiful when they are doing what birds are built to do. And pigs are beautiful when they are doing what pigs are built to do. But pigs are stupid when they try to do what they have no business doing at all.” “But I wanted to be a special pig,” said Wallace. “I wanted to do what no other pig had ever done.”
“Well,” said Denise, “you can do that without making a fool of yourself just by being who you are. After all, honey, there’s only one of you in the whole world.” And she winked at Wallace. “But I wanted to fly,” he said.
“Sorry, Sweetie,” she said. “You can’t fly. And if you try to fly, you’ll never do any of the things you can do, and you’ll miss out on more than you can imagine.” “Like what?”, said Wallace. “If you jump off that ledge, Handsome, you’ll never know,” said Denise, walking past him on her way down the Ridge.