There is an overall idea in today’s modern culture that in order to define yourself you need to break away from standard restrictions, and be “free.” Once you break free from limitations and borders, you will begin to really know who you are. We can see a small example of this idea played out in a recent Adidas commercial with James Harden. Now, James Harden’s basketball skills are awesome, but his skills in logic need some work. The theme of the commercial is: Creators never follow.
To create means to define something. In the commercial, James Harden wants to define himself (and sell Adidas apparel). However, to define yourself you need barriers and restrictions. To define anything you need to identify what you are and what you are not. This rule is one of the first rules in Plato’s laws of logic. It is called the law of identity. The law of identity is very simple. The law states that a thing is what it is and what it is not at the same time. For example, the law of identity states that a tree is a tree. The next part of the law is to acknowledge that a thing is not what it is not. So, the law of identity states a tree is not a house, rock, door, etc. To know what a tree is you need to know what it is not.
In fact, in order to define anything you need to restrict what it is not. The state of Illinois is defined by its borders; by its restrictions. If Illinois didn’t have these restrictions, it would have no identity. It would be lost adrift with no concreteness to identify itself. A basketball court is identified by its borders and restrictions. The same holds true with a car, a painting, and basically everything you can imagine. The law of identity also applies to people. In order for you to define who you are you need to say who you are not. When someone says his name is James, he simultaneously is saying his name is not Eric, Bob, Phil, Mike, Dan, etc. To declare anything, you need to identify its opposite. When I said “I do” to my wife, I simultaneously said “I don’t” to every other woman on the face of this earth.
When you define yourself, you need borders. To identify yourself without borders is self-contradictory. To define yourself without borders is impossible as definition requires borders just like the definition of a triangle requires only three sides – not four, five, or six sides. Now we can see how defining yourself without restrictions is self-defeating. It would be like saying you can’t speak while speaking! So, if you want to tear down the three sides of a triangle, you no longer have a triangle. The triangle is thus alone and adrift into nothingness without its boarders and rules. Creators have to follow rules otherwise they don’t have any definition. For James Harden to be known, he needs to be defined that he is not Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kevin Durant. So, ironically James Harden is using restrictions to define who he is in this commercial. He is telling us not to use restrictions by using restrictions! The Harden logic is as bizarre as that scene when Winnie the Pooh answers a knock at the door by saying, “no one is home!” It is completely self-defeating.
There is something more going on here than just showing the bad logic in a TV commercial. The sad part of this commercial is that our younger people are eating this message up. The commercial itself demonstrates this as it shows regular people wearing the Harden beard. This means those people would rather be like Harden than themselves. In a sense, these people want their own identity but now try to be defined by James Harden. Researchers have shown us that this logic can be linked to the cause of teenage identity confusion. Psychologist Erik Erikson shows the relationship to excessive modern culture and increased teenage identity confusion Carried out to the extreme case this identity confusion in teens can lead to depression, borderline multiple personality syndrome, and suicide. This idea really hits home as we now see the rise of teenage suicide rates today. According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of teenage death today. We now see the profound problem with teenagers listening to the flawed logic of the pop culture.
Plato shows us that a thing is best defined from the entity in which it came from; its’ source. We can understand that the pop culture did not make us; God did. When teenagers listen to the messages of the pop culture, they become confused and begin to lose their true identity. Instead of listening to their real life source (God), teens have let an outside source in the pop culture define themselves as something they are not. Restrictions and borders are a good thing because they allow us to become clearly defined. Otherwise, we become confused and lost in a cacophony of noise without any definition of who we are. We are not James Harden, and this is a good thing. When you know what you are not, you will begin to know what you are.