Have you seen the movie ‘Only the Brave’? It is the tragic story of the ‘Granite Mountain Hotshots’, 19 firefighters who died in a fire in Yarnell, Arizona on 28 June 2013. The motto of the firefighting team was “Esse Quam Videri”, Latin for ‘to be, not to seem to be’. This means it is better to be something rather than pretend to be something. The movie moves you with how these men were the real deal in courage, solidarity, servanthood, conviction.
Do we live in a time where “seeming to be”, is more important than “to be”? We are surrounded by brushed images, catchy branding, crafted statements, staged selfies, amazing social media feeds. We are savvy enough to see through it yet appear to lack the self-control to not buy it.
I don’t post my personal life on social media. Partly because I cannot fathom why my boring life would interest anyone. Mostly because I have no idea what to post. Do I post the glamorous golden light moments which convey my glorious life? Do I post the doubts, fear, anxieties, frustrations I wrestle with? I am probably over thinking it. No wonder people post what they have for brekky – they have gone for the banal middle way. But I cannot figure out how to put in pictures and words Esse Quam Videri. I would rather be something than pretend and social media encourages pretence.
With God there can be no pretence. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God can call us on all false claims, every lie, every deceit, every vanity. For those who prefer pretending this could be a fearful prospect. Imagine all that careful work cultivating a produced, manicured life going to waste. But a waste it is. For those who prefer Esse Quam Videri it is an absolute relief. Finally, something real.