The song “High Hopes” is an upbeat anthem about a deeply held belief of the band “Panic! At the Disco.” It is a belief that they would someday “make it.” And so they have. The song has peaked at No. 5 on Billboard’s Top 100.
In the accompanying music video, lead singer Brendon Urie defies gravity by scaling the side of a glass skyscraper. He waves to a bystander gazing from a plain office break room as she looks wondrously at his feat…and feet. A crowd applauds below as he takes in the view from the top, before the full band joins him on a helicopter pad for a sunset concert. His vertical ascent is a metaphor for the pursuit of success. And, according to the lyrics, success requires “high hopes.” In a recent tweet, Urie explained the meaning of the song;
I spent too long not setting my expectations high enough, worried about how it felt to fail. I hit a point when I realized I had to aim high and fail, fail, fail in order to keep growing.
There is a bit of truth to his tweet. There exists a tight correlation between failure and success. Anticipation of struggles should never limit one’s pursuit of excellence. In fact, rightly managed, struggles can full even greater hopes. Paul writes:
We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. . . (Romans 5:3–4)
But the pursuit of personal success must never become an end in itself. Like the pursuit of success by way of wealth and fame, the video hides a subtle truth. The video concludes with a camera shot from above the band. As the camera pulls back, and reveals an image woven into the markings of the helicopter pad. The symbol features a circle interwoven into a triangle. At the points of the triangle are an eye, a star, and a moon. In the middle of the image is an exclamation point. The image is not new. It first appeared at the beginning of a 2016 music video. The song was titled “LA Devotee” and the accompanying video detailed the gruesome acts of a cult. Here, the logo appears at the end of a music video shot at 705 West 9th Street, in, you guessed it, LA. And one is forced to wonder why.
The largest cult in this country will not be found hid out in some remote compound. It is woven into the fabric of our society, our political system, our economy, and even our churches. It is the “Cult of Success.” This cult’s purest worship is personal achievement. Its foundational doctrines teach that you only need to believe in yourself, never give up, be true to who you are, and have high hopes.
Success, not mediocrity, is woven into the fabric of man’s nature. There is nothing wrong with pursuing excellence. God wants us to succeed. But he alone knows what success actually means. He alone must be our motivation to excel. He alone is our means of success. Absent of God’s purpose, excellence can never reach its fullest potential, dead-end success. As Christians, we are not called to have high hopes, but the highest hope, a hope that can be found exclusively in Jesus Christ. Paul concludes his statement on tribulation and hope with these words, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)
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