Was Pat Tillman SuperMan?

“Man, supposing you and I, escaping this battle, would be able to live on forever, ageless, immortal, so neither would I myself go on fighting in the foremost nor would I urge you into the fighting where men win glory. But now, seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us in their thousands, no man can turn aside nor escape them, let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.”

Homer, The Iliad

Many young men in my generation owe Pat Tillman for igniting our desire to join the military. He set the example as a high-profile individual who signed up to join his nation’s military during a time of war. A lot of people view Tillman as a hero. I think they do so because at face value he turned down a 3.6 million-dollar contract in the NFL to join the Army in response to the attacks on 9/11.

Jon Krakauer does a great job of breaking down all of the reasons why Pat Tillman can and should continue to be seen as a hero for all of us in his book, “Where Men Win Glory.” These reasons go far deeper than just turning down money to serve his country. Throughout the book, Krakauer introduces Friedrich Nietzche’s concept of the “ubermensch.” He draws parallels between Tillman and this theory of the Ubermensch. Which begs the question. What is the Ubermensch?

To understand the concept of the Ubermensch we must understand Nietzche. Disclaimer: no one understands Nietzche. Here is a very brief description of Nietzche’s philosophy to explain this concept for the purposes of this post. If you want to learn more, buy this book. Nietzche puts forth the argument that we as a society have killed God. As I like to put it, we have chosen to worship science. In doing so we as a people are destined to lose our moral compass. Or as Jordan Peterson would put it, we have a massive gap we must fill in the absence of God. Nietzche’s solution. The Ubermensch.

Neitzche’s Ubermensche or superman has the following core characteristics.

  • He is Psychologically Strong
  • He is not concerned with religion or “other worldliness”
  • He creates his own morality for himself and lives by his own moral code and dominates his reality
  • His presence on earth is the solution to the death of God.

Tillman was obviously psychologically strong. His theories on religion were well balances and he could often be found reading about creation stories from all major religions. He followed his own moral code and the presence of men like him makes up for the lack of faith and society’s lack of participation in important social institutions.

As a Christian Man, I struggle with Neitzche’s concepts surrounding the unwillingness to appreciate the moral code religion provides for us. Yet, I would argue that Tillman fits Neitzche’s definition of the Super Man or Over Man. He chose to forge his own path and lived a life that many young men could strive for, fail to replicate, and still be proud of the outcome. It would be audacious to claim that Tillman’s presence replaces the void filled by a lack of faith in our society. Yet, I am proud to know he was a citizen of this nation. I look up to the man as a model for all of us. I am thankful that he has elevated what is the minimum standard for us all.


Post Script

I have heard individuals talk about Tillman’s fratricide and misconduct related to reporting of his death as though it takes away from his story. It does not because Tillman’s story is of a man who chose to push himself to the highest standards possible regardless of what was expected of him. Our ending does not define us or our story. The life we lived on this earth is what defines us.


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