Zeal, ardor, dedication, commitment, fervor…are words that convey personal intensity and willingness to sacrifice one’s individual situation for a higher purpose, or for a shared cause or the common good. As with many character attributes, there are degrees of intensity of purpose, and of the perception held by others of the value or benefit that results from a person’s level of intensity.
This past weekend, my wife and I watched a number of war movies and saw on the news current stories of bravery and personal intensity shown by real life contemporary heroes in various present-day theaters of combat. Yes, there are present day theaters of combat, and they are not theatrical productions. They are real places our fellow Americans volunteer to go, to serve, to fight, and unfortunately for those called upon to give their final measure of devotion to duty, to die.
Even war movies were largely based on historical events, portraying battles which, due to the personal intensity of the combatants, shaped the world in which we presently live.
The freedoms we enjoy today were neither easily nor cheaply attained. During the American Revolution, the signors of the Declaration swore: “…for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”. While each of our forefathers put his own individual fortune as well as his very life on the line for us, collectively they shared in a communion of singular honor, a fervent dedication to their cause, which is our own cause to this very day.
When contemplating the terrible wars we have fought, with their tragic casualties, when we consider the epic causes we, as a nation have struggled with, including many hard-won versions of equal rights for diverse segments of ‘we the people’, it is impossible to imagine any of those victories having been won without intensity of purpose and fervent dedication to a common or shared cause.
The first word I chose for this piece is “zeal”. People who possess zeal are zealots. Occasionally the word, zealot, can carry a negative implication. However, zeal is not something that really can exist in any mediocre degree of purpose. There is no such word as “zeal-little” to imply something less than the real zeal, the ardor of a zealot.
Personal dedication which falls short of zeal is not dedication after all. Battles, campaigns, wars, small or great causes…are not won by avid affiliation and wearing tee-shirts, or by the close affinity of a mob occupying a city park, and certainly not by clicking an icon to “Like” the concept of victory. If you want to win the day, then you need real zeal, a high intensity of purpose and wholehearted dedication to whatever cause you have espoused. You need to put yourself out there, on the line, for what you believe in and for which you are willing to give yourself up to perservere.