From time to time the National Hockey League looks around to see if, by any chance, they have left money on the table somewhere. Recently, businessmen in Las Vegas, Nevada expressed interest in buying a sports franchise, and when they were willing to pay the $500 million expansion fee, the NHL gave them a franchise. They struggled for a while to come with a name that hadn’t already been copyrighted by someone else, so when they were ready to announce their name and logo to the world, they made a big deal of it. And whenever people make a big deal out of something, the twitter world responds.
Call me crazy, but I don’t mind the idea of a hockey team in Vegas, and I am okay with the logo and the name, but by gauging the online response, I may be in the minority. The name they came up with was the Vegas Golden Knights and their logo is a simple green and gold helmet in front of a black crest.
Negative responses were pretty predictable, but one hockey fan in particular latched on to a few things that others hadn’t noticed. As a history scholar, she took issue with inaccuracies and misrepresentations in their branding. First, what else could it mean to be a golden knight, she asked, except that their armour would be made out of gold, and given how soft and valuable gold is it would make that knight weaker and bigger target. Also, she said that the helmet was a Corinthian design, which predates the medieval understanding of knighthood by over a thousand years. She was irate, in a twitter kind of way, that these glaring errors would have been overlooked in the design and branding phase.
The day after her rant, a friend of hers responded, trying to point out something that she might have been missing. He said, “The helmet forms the shape of the letter V.” Not everyone sees it right away, apparently, but it is a central part of the logo, the central part maybe. The V isn’t made out of the metal of the helmet, though, it is found in the empty space around it. In artistic terms, it is created in the negative space. She still didn’t like the logo, but at least she could understand where they were coming from.
This woman isn’t alone in her inability to see shapes emerge from negative space, but that doesn’t stop designers from trying to employ it for that purpose.
Many of us also use this kind of negative space tactic, but in entirely different ways. I hardly drink any alcohol, I don’t cheat on my taxes, and I’ve never been to a strip club. All of those are intentional and they reflect, in some ways, the kind of person I want to be, but if I try to build my identity around them, I would fall short. We cannot create an identity out of what we are not. We cannot be defined by the negative space of our lives.
Christians are especially vulnerable to doing this. We take pride in the rules that they follow, calling them to avoid certain temptations. We also want to distance ourselves from other believers who we see as wrong about God, so we are Christians, but not that kind of Christian. Yes, I’m still part of the church, but I don’t go to that church anymore. There are atheists like this too. While they are adamant that there is no God, they are very specific about the God they don’t believe in.
The trouble is that this is a much easier way to define ourselves. Rather than doing the hard work to see what makes sense in the context of a hurting world, rather than looking close enough to see the grays where we once there were only blacks and whites, we recline into what is most comfortable. Rather than carving out an identity based on what we do, who are and what we believe, we fan the flames of other people’s animosity by assuring them that we are not the ones they hate. But it’s a futile game. No matter who you are and what you stand for, people will hate you. So take a chance, own who you are and what you believe.
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