Donald DeMarco, who is now an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Connecticut, has an Antiques Roadshow fantasy that involves his “ethics students of long ago” at another Catholic institution of higher learning.
In a piece entitled “”Of Kangaroos and Kings” in the latest issue of the Human Life Review, DeMarco explains:
[I]nstead of appraising their possessions, I appraise them. I inform my erstwhile students that they are more precious than diamonds, that they were created by the greatest Artist of them all, and that they possess an immortal soul. Alas, my exalted appraisal does not delight them. As a matter of fact, it actually saddens them.
Despite DeMarco’s efforts to persuade them of their value, the students remain unconvinced:
[The students] explain, in turn, that they are really products of chance, descendents of apes, and destined to peaceful oblivion. They reject my high appraisal of them, preferring to believe that they evolved from slime, have little intrinsic value, and are heading for nowheresville.
The philosophies of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre and other low evaluators of the human being danced through my mind. My poor misguided students, I thought to myself. They never acted this way when they received high grades. An A paper was always regarded as higher and more happiness-inducing than an F. Curiously, however, they preferred an F for their low self-evaluation for themselves as individual human beings rather than an A. Perhaps their low self-evaluation helped to explain their exaggerated enthusiasm for good grades. They had seemingly emptied themselves into their possessions.
It is only when we understand what it is to be a human being, DeMarco seems to be saying, that we are able to grasp that “the unborn human has a future and a destiny.”
Okay, so where do the kangaroos come into the picture?
[M]an is capable of dispossession, the ability to turn away from his own nature and the destiny that nature implies. Soren Kierkegaard referred to this phenomenon as “despair of defiance.” This kind of self-estrangement is not found among beasts. Consider the kangaroo. This species is not regarded as particularly intelligent.
Yet, the mother knows the value of her offspring. In the unhappy instance when she is being pursued by a dingo, she knows that she will not escape her ferocious predator. Before she becomes a meal for her pursuer, she will take her offspring from its pouch and fling it away to safety. She believes, somehow, as only kangaroo mothers can believe, that her baby has a future. Her belief is fully validated by the fact that it often happens that Aussies traipsing through the woods find abandoned joeys and adopt them as pets. The mother kangaroo is never alienated from her nature as a kangaroo.
The piece is both charming and profound—perhaps “profoundly charming” is the right way to describe it, so it is unfortunate that it isn’t online. By the way, the king in the title is the late King Baudouin, who abdicated for several days rather than sign a liberal abortion law passed by the Belgian Parliament.
Holy Apostles College–where we’re sure students know quite a bit about the Catholic notion of what it means to be a human being–is recommended in The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.
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