Hello again, dear Reader. As you may already notice, I was a Nihilist once. This was a very dark period in my life, almost akin to descending unto Hell itself. When you have lost any hope in the world—and in Life itself, for that matter—it is quite inevitable to conclude that nothing is worthwhile. Nothing is worth doing, nothing is worth saying, ergo nothing is worth living for. It was only by the work of a Miracle that I somehow managed to avoid the damning but perfectly logical response to those sentiments: suicide.
The world is full of suffering and misery and tragedy. Life itself is oftentimes unfair and strenuous. It’s so much easier to just give Life a middle finger and spit on its face.
But wait a minute. Could there be something in this? Could there be Meaning, intricately woven in the fabric of suffering itself? Could there possibly be a rainbow, somewhere in the distance, behind the clouds? Could there also exist Heaven, and not Hell only? Could Life be so much more than this? Could there be some hidden Truth that we somehow miss, veiled by a plank, a log, in our eyes? Could there be Joy, if only we persevere and take that Kierkegaardian—or Abrahamic, pick one you prefer—leap of faith?
From all this, this sailor of yours dare to humbly draw a conclusion: unless we start to get our act together, there will only be Hell. If we take the necessary leap of faith, the world will be a better place. At least on microcosmic level. Sure, it will still be rife with tragedies and miseries and unfairness, but at least we finally see that there is Meaning behind all this, that it’s not some random, probabilistic world crafted by some dice-playing God. That we need to be humbled enough to realize that maybe our naive, overly-simplistic, problem-of-evil-ish, armchair “better world” is not really better (we’re not God, after all). That there is a message of divine and glorious Redemption encrypted deep within each and every nodes.
Or the next generation’s world, after ours. Rachel’s world should be a better one, and that should be more than enough motivation for us all to work together for a better Jerusalem.
It was October 6, 2007; it was already twenty years since the last time New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup. They were to face the host nation France in the quarterfinal. They were the favourite of the tournament, but can they live up to the “Great Expectation”?
Up until the 40th minute the scoreboard was 13-0 to the All Blacks. It seemed like they were in for an easy win. But then, in the second half, all hell broke loose. By the time referee Wayne Barnes blew the final whistle, the score was 18-20 to the French.
The captain, 26 year old Richie McCaw, fell under criticism. He was accused of being unable to inspire the team and not providing enough leadership on the field. The first five-eighth Dan Carter’s ability to cope with media attention and commercial adulation he received was questioned. And the coach, Graham Henry? Many thought his tenure was over. His strategy and tactic was heavily criticised, even ridiculed. Overall, the team was perceived as choking on the big stage.
Then came the 2010 Bledisloe Cup in Hong Kong, pitting the All Blacks against their arch-rival, “the Wallabies” Australia. The All Blacks were leading 24-19 until the last 20 minutes, when Dan Carter was substituted by Stephen Donald. Donald got a penalty kick, which could make the gap between the teams larger, but he failed to score. Worse, in the dying minutes of the game, he failed to end the match by clearing the ball to the touchline. Instead, the ball fell to the Australians, and they scored, dramatically winning the trophy in a 26-24 scoreline. Soon, Donald fell upon criticism by the media and condemnation by the New Zealand public.
And then, the 2011 Rugby World Cup. This time the event was held on their own soil, New Zealand. The coach, Graham Henry, was given another chance to redeem the failure four years ago. So did Richie McCaw, the captain. But Donald wasn’t called to join the team, and on learning that, he decided to go on vacation—fishing whitebait on the banks of Waikato River. He even deleted Henry’s number from his phone.
But soon enough, things took a turning for him. First, Dan Carter was injured. Then Colin Slade. Donald’s phone was ringing. It was from an unknown number (it was Henry’s number, but he deleted his number). He ignored the call and continued fishing. Then his phone rang again, now from Mils Muliaina, his teammate in Waikato and Chiefs:
You’d better start answering your phone, fool, cause you’re going to be in Auckland in a couple of days!
Auckland, October 23, 2011. It was the Final; it was already twenty four years since the last time New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup. And this time they faced the French again, who knocked them out four years ago. Captain McCaw had a re-occurring foot injury throughout the tournament. He had a fracture on his metatarsal bone, but he decided against having another X-ray prior to the match and forced himself to continue playing.
The entire nation hung their hope on this team. They had longed for a World Cup trophy for decades. The day before the Final, a cartoon appeared on the Wellington Dominion, depicting Stephen Donald taking a match-winning kick as a nightmare.
The caricature was prescient: on 34th minute, Aaron Cruden injured his knee and was substituted by Donald. Soon enough, on the 46th minute, a penalty kick was given to the All Blacks. Donald stepped up to take it. New Zealand held its breath as he took the kick. In! Donald’s kick was the match-winning difference, as the All Blacks proceeded to win the game 8-7. After the match, the Christchurch-born coach Graham Henry told the reporter about McCaw’s injury:
He can hardly walk and how he played today I just don’t know.
Four years later McCaw and Carter won another World Cup trophy, after beating the Wallabies 34-17 on what many called the home of rugby, the Twickenham Stadium, London. These were brave men, refusing to be embittered by circumstances around them. Yes, maybe the critics were right. Yes, they made some mistakes. But they persevered. They started again. They improved their lot. They courageously took their responsibility and gave it their 110%. And for that, they got their Redemption.