In Rubén Darío’s poem, “Los Motivos Del Lobo” (“The Motives of the Wolf”), St. Francis of Assisi converts a wolf into being civilized but only temporarily does the feral canine stop the slaughter of animals and humans in the hills of an Italian town, Gubbio. At first the wolf conforms to the ways of the community enjoying its peace. But that façade is quickly eclipsed by the brutal truth of its animal nature. The wolf returns to the hills to kill again. As it turns out, the ontological make-up of wolf/humanity cannot be altered. Although at first it enjoyed being handfed, it began to miss acting on instinct—hunting down its own prey leaving a bloodthirsty carnage in its crimson-colored wake. Undoubtedly, the hypocrisy and hatred of the town’s people had something to do with it leaving, but I want to stress the point that I believe Darío is trying to make. The wolf needs to kill to survive in order to live a more fulfilled life.

Jack London, in his popular American novel The Call of the Wild, does something similar. He uses the main character, a mixed-breed dog, named Buck, as a mouthpiece to preach his naturalism of “survival of the fittest.” At first Buck, a representation of mankind, enjoys all the luxuries of being a house dog on an enormous ranch, including not having to work for its food. But all that begins to change. Once he is betrayed by man and sold as a sled dog, his primitive instincts kick-in and he has to relearn to survive in harsh climates with vicious animals. This is especially true towards the end of the book, when Buck succumbs to the call of the wild into the forest shedding any shred of civility in order to live a more fulfilled life as the alpha dog of a wolf pack.

These two stories share a common message: man is an evolved animal that still lives and thus ought to live instinctually in order to attain fulfillment. To be more accurate Darío is saying that there are two ways to live: one as St. Francis, who represents religion, and the other as a modernist or idealist, while London is conveying a universal principle, man is at the core of his being an instinctual animal.

But I take issue with the idea that religion, specifically Christianity, is something superfluous or antiquated. Humanity can never live a truly fulfilled life serving its own vicious appetites like that of the wolf or Buck because man was designed for ultimate fulfillment via practicing biblical virtues, which manifests man’s deep desire to live for God. Blaise Pascal said it best: “the infinite abyss [God shaped-vacuum] can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.” Blaise Pascal, Pensées, VII. 425.

Chester Delagneau

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