If you have any different insights on these topics, please share them. Maybe some day some of these ideas will make it to the big leagues and become pro-verbs. I also have a blog for technical computery stuff - zachstechnotes.blogspot.com.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

disappointment and hope

This post is not about football, but it would be a difficult task to come up with a better example of disappointment than Texas A&M's 2011 football season. At the end of August, we were ranked in the top 10, expected to compete for the Big 12 Championship, and seeking to make a name for ourselves on the national level. Today, we have nothing significant left to hold our heads high about.

Sure, there are many other teams who could say that their record is worse, that they have suffered through losing season after losing season, but none can say that their losses have been as heartbreaking as ours: Oklahoma State (now ranked 5th) - lost by 1 point at home after leading most of the game, Arkansas (now ranked 3rd) - lost by 4 points after leading most of the game, Kansas State and Missouri - lost in overtime after leading most of the game. Whatever it is that causes teams to win games, we don't have it.

And then there is the Texas game. This is more difficult to explain to people outside of A&M. It is a rivalry (at least from our side) that is on a different level from any other that I have experienced. We have played each other for 118 years, and at A&M the entire year revolved around this game. We sang about the Longhorns even when we were playing other teams and constructed 100 foot tall bonfires to prepare for the game. In Aggieland, you will find more t-shirts bashing the Longhorns than you will praising the virtues of A&M. This game was distinct from the rest of the season, and sometimes it mattered more than all of the other games combined. For us, it was like playing in a championship game every year.

But our relationship with the Big 12 was unsustainable, and the unthinkable became inevitable - the rivalry would end. The 2011 game became bigger. We needed to win it, to keep our pride, and to keep the Longhorns thirsty to revive the rivalry in the future. So on Thanksgiving night, we flooded into Kyle Field to saw Texas's horns off one last time. The first half went well for us, but, just as in all of the other important games this season, we fell apart in the third quarter. We hoped that this game would be different - that somehow the Aggie Spirit that has worked its magic in Kyle Field so many times before would overcome. And indeed this began to happen. With less than two minutes to go, we found that we had come back and were ahead by 1. All we had to do was hold off the Longhorn offense that had done little against us all night. Our hope that the season would end with something good was strong. But then Texas quarterback Case McCoy broke free at midfield and began running towards field-goal range. The heart of every Aggie in the stands collapsed like the bonfire would as it burned every year before the game. Our hope evaporated in that century-long moment as the all-white number 6 jersey sprinted down the open field towards the spot where they would kick the game-winning field goal.

And that was it. It was over. There is no next year. There are no plans for us to be able to challenge UT again. Some people will try to find bright spots in the season, or blame the UT loss on external factors like injuries or officiating, but for me, the magnitude of disappointment overshadows everything else. A rational evaluation of the situation reveals nothing to hope in.

Sadly, this kind of disappointment that cannot be circumvented by optimism is not limited to things as trivial as football. It is ubiquitous in human life on Earth. As long as humans are sinful, evil will have hold of this world. Will there ever be a complete solution to poverty and hunger? Will there ever be an end to the tyranny of the powerful over the disadvantaged? Can democracy ultimately overcome corruption and deceit? Can we avert the destruction of our natural environment? Will your life turn out to be all you hope it to be? If I rationally evaluate these situations, I find nothing to hope in.

We can try to be optimistic, but mere optimism cannot change facts. Marriages fail. Relationships crumble. Expectations are not met. Politicians deceive. Power corrupts. Reckless resource use darkens the future. Pessimism is the outlook that is consistent with reality. There is no hope in this.

So, what are we to do? We cannot find hope in humanity, but I think that there is hope in something above it. The creator of this universe is determined to reconcile and redeem His creation. This requires the ultimate defeat and destruction of evil, and the salvation of those people that God has made perfect through the death of Christ. Several things in my life that I have been putting hope in have begun to crumble this semester. But throughout my life, this hope in God's work is the only hope that I have not found disappointment in. One ancient writer put it like this:
Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed-- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors-- and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun. And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind...
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. 
Ecclesiastes 4:1-4 & 12:13-14

By the way*, even though I think that one day Texas A&M will cease to be hopeworthy, for now it is an institution worth being proud of. On Friday night, with the loss still weighing heavily on me, I went for a jog on campus to get some endorphins flowing. Under the big ring were two high-school or college-freshman-aged girls laughing and taking pictures with their parents. It reminded me of all of the things that I have experienced and learned here at A&M, and of what these girls, along with thousands of others in the incoming classes, are about to learn. They will learn not only about the academic fields they pursue, but more importantly about selflessness and integrity in a way that they could nowhere else. And that is what makes Aggieland special, regardless of how much the football team disappoints.

*The importance of this paragraph is insignificant compared to the preceding section.