[February 25, 2020] I’m reminded of a Reebok tennis shoe commercial from a few years ago. Back in early 2015, Reebok introduced a new campaign to compete with Nike and other large brands. Their “be more human” message is referring to Reebok’s attempt to urge consumers to live up to their full potential. I like what their message because it resonates with an essential human idea that we must be more than we are.
When I was a small kid going to school, starting with First Grade, I was both scared and happy. Scared because school was new, and I lacked confidence. Happy, because I thought I was smarter and stronger than the other kids (I wasn’t). It took me into my early twenties before I realized that there was a danger in the hubris of the intellect; the danger toward pride and arrogance. It took me reading Paradise Lost and the story of Lucifer in John Milton’s 17th-century poem to understand it better.
“Aspire not to have more, but to be more.” – Óscar Romero, prelate of the Catholic Church in El Salvador
I started to understand that there was more to life than the intellect and physical prowess. I was trying to figure out why the world was so crazy at the time (the Cold War) in the early to mid-1970s. I was also fiercely struggling with my Engineering college degree since I’d not learned to study well or devote the requisite time to academics that had come so easily to that point.
In 1974, I joined the U.S. Army as a Private (the lowest rank possible). The Army is where I met Sergeant Bryant. As a side note, I introduced Drill Sergeant Bryant to my readers earlier in 2017 with an article titled “What is Fair? The Military Way.”1 This introduction of Bryant was to help make the point that it takes more than pure intellect and strength to be a good person, to be satisfied with your life, and to be someone others look up to as credible. Don’t get me wrong, I hated Sergeant Bryant intensely, but he showed us how to be real soldiers.
For me, the Army was an introduction to humility. The military experience showed me that there was an element of the humanness that transcended the intellect. It also taught me that I was a novice in understanding people and also poorly adapted to use human-made tools (weapons, armored vehicles, and such). Most importantly, I learned that I could be more than I thought I could be.
I learned in the military that my “potential” as a soldier was more than I could imagine it to be and that I had to be more. This philosophy has driven my life more than anything else; that I can improve my future self and do so consciously. Joining the Army was a way that allowed me to meet reality and to understand human nature and what it is like to be a good person.