“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” This is the new fun phrase from Nike’s new ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick circulating social media. I have no interest in getting involved with the NFL kneeling thing or the time-wasting delirium of debating Nike’s intentions with the ad, but I feel a need to seize the moment before this fad is exhausted, which in internet time will be within the next 45 mins or so.
The implicit message is, “be really, really serious about something regardless if it costs you everything because that will make you a hero, and if you’re not a hero you’re a nothing.” Never mind that the author of the phrase did not find the courage to define what exactly the “something” is for him or her because it would likely mean they’d lose everything.
Hypocrisy aside, this is one of the most idiotic phrases I’ve ever heard, and the fact that so many people seem to take solace in it is disturbing.
Surely most people recognize that if they were to spread this motto over world history it would necessitate sympathy for literally every lunatic who has ever lived – whether barbarous world leader, psychotic cult leader, or just that ass in high school you never liked – for no other reason but that they “believed in something even though it meant sacrificing everything.” Far from wise, this phrase is heinously foolish, the expressed image of blather.
If one changes out the word “Believe” for something a little more revealing, like “Trust”, the foolishness becomes even more apparent: “Trust in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Ah, see that? The word trust evokes a deeper emotional reaction causing one to wake up quicker. One demands to know what “something” is.
The immediate popularity of the phrase seems to reflect a desire in many to achieve some semblance of martyrdom for a cause, any cause. Not that people shouldn’t choose martyrdom. Hey, I’m an Orthodox Christian, we’re all about martyrdom. But the idea that you give your life to whatever thought, whatever idea, whatever dream of self-importance captivates you most at the moment to the point of total sacrifice is the praxis of a 4 year old, not an adult. Adults have to discover which ideas and causes, among the myriad that cross their path in life, possess self-transcending value worthy of total sacrifice. Finding this takes what any edifice of wisdom requires: painstaking trial and error over a given time of living experience complete with heaps of honest self-reflection. Only after the adult has navigated at least some portion of this journey can he or she begin to replace this bogus, say-nothing, childish abstract “something” with an actual something – a something worthy of dying for.
As an aside, the caveat to all this is that a person must believe that his or her life is valuable, indeed of infinite value, before they can get into this too deeply. I don’t believe that most people today believe this about themselves. I think many believe it in a superficial, American Idol sort of way, but nothing approaching true earnestness.
I’m convinced that we are among the most cowardly people to have ever lived, and I believe this is primarily due to us having embraced, wittingly or unwittingly, a materialist vision of our humanity without having the psychological capacity to rid ourselves completely of the inner witness of our true eternal value. This creates a cognitive dissonance which keeps us uncommitted to a belief in our true greatness on the one hand and uncommitted to utter despair on the other. Instead we dwell in a state of psycho-spiritual groundlessness which creates something like Kierkegaard’s “dizziness” of anxiety; ever willing to live to the fullest in abstracto – in the safety of our imaginations – while literally scared to death of living in concreto with our actual selves.
Anyway, that’s my quick take on this phrase. Not sure why it won my attention when so many odd and shallow phrases abound today, but it did.
Thanks for reading.