On Zeal

Zeal: personal intensity and willingness to sacrifice one’s individual situation for a higher purpose, a shared cause or the common good. You've seen this word bandied about, here.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Patrick June 03, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Here are some interesting facts: The zealots have been described as one of the first examples of the use of terrorism. In the Talmud, the Zealots are the non-religious (not following the religious leaders), and are also called the Biryonim meaning "boorish", "wild", or "ruffians", and are condemned for their aggression, their unwillingness to compromise to save the survivors of besieged Jerusalem, and their blind militarism against the Rabbis' opinion to seek treaties for peace. While my degree is not in Theology, I did attend the Univ. of Scranton, a fine Jesuit university, and never once were any of the people you mentioned described as zealots. In my research, again I found no description of these men as zealots. I will say that these descriptions above certainly do portray someone we both know, and who you are trying to defend using this blog. If anyone would like to see what I mean, just google "christian zealot" and see what pops up.
Steve June 03, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Memorial Day, it's observance on behalf of the many individuals who served in wars and conflicts reflects(ed) the commitment, zeal and fervor their service has had toward a common cause during times of war, conflict and unrest. The etymology of the word zeal is rooted in the Roman-Latin and Greek languages- zealot c.1300, "member of a militant 1st century Jewish sect which fiercely resisted the Romans in Palestine," from L.L. Zelotes, from Gk. zelotes "one who is a zealous follower," from zeloun "to be zealous," from zelos "zeal" (see zeal). Those who served and continue to serve during a time of war, conflict or unrest certainly have to have commitment, zeal and zest for a common cause. And, so often serve "against great odds" in their commitment to mission and those goals. Sacrificing personal safety, and, public perception and opinion to support the mission.
Cassandra June 03, 2012 at 09:48 PM
"This is me being a jerk." Patrick, you forgot to mention this one, too.
Patrick June 04, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Steve, I agree with your comments, and we are all indebted to our military personnel, and without question they act with significant commitment are zealous in their pursuits. But I would never think of describing any member of our military as a zealot, because by definition that would make them fanatics or extremists. This not how I believe our soldiers would like to be portrayed. I believe they would more than likely think it is the enemy against whom they are fighting that are the zealots, and they are trying keep our country safe from them. Most of the people I know who serve, or have served in the military feel that their job was to aggressively defend our country against these types of people, not be like them.
Patrick June 12, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Part 2 of todays Newsday, Chris. We all await your response.


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