A Rijkaard Reckoning

At the 1990 World Cup there was a crunch second round match between the (then) West Germany and Netherlands. This game was played against the backdrop of an intense footballing rivalry. The Netherlands had lost two world cup finals. On both occasions they were defeated by perennial foes, West Germany.

The Dutch team at Italia ’90 were star-studded. They had the outstanding trio of Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. Van Basten provided the goals and Gullit was the maestro and playmaker. However the single most important player to the team was probably Rijkaard.

He was the truly irreplaceable one. He led the team from deep lying positions and was the fulcrum of the midfield. With his tackling ability and passing range, he could initiate quick attacks after defensive recoveries and interceptions.

With these glittering talents a lot of Dutch fans and football purists expected the team to do well.

The West German team was good too. Jurgen Klinsmann was their star player. They also had a dependable striker in Rudi Voller and a dominating midfielder in Lother Matheus.

In the course of the game, there was a running battle between Rijkaard and Voller. This was to be expected in a no-holds barred match from players who via their positions in the respective formations, were competing for the same zones on the pitch.

In the heat of the contest, Rijkaard allowed himself to get worked up by a pesky Voller and got sent off. In fact, due to the altercation Voller was sent off too.

Both teams were down to ten men. Honours even? Far from it. Rijkaard’s dismissal hurt the Dutch more than Voller did to the Germans. The Germans went ahead to win the game 2-1. They progressed all the way to the final and won the World Cup that year.

After the game, the Dutch coach was scathing in his criticism of his player. He acknowledged that there was some provocation from Voller but expected Rijkaard to know that he was more important to the Dutch than Voller was to the Germans.

Do losses cancel out?

In conflict or in competition, it is often assumed that once both rivals are losing the same amount of resources, then the game/war is even. That is not the case. It is a Rijkaardesque fallacy. Even when losses are equal, effects are not. For instance a man who engages in fisticuffs with his boss, which leads to the termination of both may be the real loser. If he is the sole breadwinner of his family while his boss is not, then in terms of effect and consequence, he is the loser. Thus a parity of losses does not lead to a parity of consequences.

A Pause or a Greater Cause?

Voller’s loss to the German team was merely a misstep on Germany’s stately march to the title. On the other hand, Rijkaard’s unavailability completely derailed his team’s quest for glory. The Dutch could not keep the Germans at bay without their elegant stopper.

An equality of losses on an individual level does not measure the impact on the greater cause/wider team. If you serve a cause that is greater than yourself, risking your time and resources in a ‘side’ fight with another, risks damaging that cause beyond the actual losses you incur.

In the face of many, varied ‘contests’ we face in life, career or business, we must determine if our victories/defeats would not damage our ideals and nobler impulses. If it is only a misstep/pause at worst, then risk it, if it would damage the cause, it is not worth it. We must pick our battles wisely.

We all have ‘Vollers’ that we wish to outwit, tame or fight. Do not win at the expense of your ‘Rijkaards’. Winning your World Cup is better than defeating your ‘Rudi Voller’.

A Joe Cole Metaphor

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This post will be best understood by football fans of a certain vintage….but the lessons are universal.

Joe Cole was a footballer who plied his trade for West Ham, Chelsea and Liverpool before he fell off the radar of the elite clubs.

When he broke into the West Ham first team he was clearly a precocious and amazing talent. The English media, notorious for their fawning adulation, loved him. He was supposed to the next footballing genius in the English football firmament and he was not going to stop there. Certainly his star would also burn brightly in the galaxy of world football.

He could do almost everything in the modern game. He could run, he could pass, he could dribble, he could shoot, he was genuinely two-footed, making him a difficult customer when he runs at defenders; he could go either side of his would-be maker.

He could play behind the striker, he was a good fit for the number ‘ten’ role. He could play in wide positions too, either wide left or wide right. He could sit deeper and dictate the play from the number ‘eight’ position. He was the epitome of the modern attacking midfielder. He could play right across midfield.

Yet his career did not bring the laurels that his talents promised. He won trophies at Chelsea but was displaced by more muscular and energetic midfielders who were considerably more prolific goal scorers and had a better ‘engine’ to cover every blade of grass in both boxes. They could work hard both offensively and defensively. Graft was edging out talent.

Or was it? Perhaps it was the case of the sharpened dagger becoming more useful than the Swiss Army Knife.

His output was inconsistent, his influence on games was not all pervasive. Surely a midfielder of his calibre should be dominating games?

A wag once opined that Joe Cole’s problem was his excess and multi-faceted ability. Because he could dribble, run, or pass with either feet, he was often confused by the array of options when he got the ball. Consequently, he frequently lost it. While he dawdled, he was tackled.

While that may be a simple characterization, there is an element of truth in the observation.

When you have too many skills/opportunities, when you have too many credible and viable options, you can easily lose the cutting edge. Simply put, the individual will suffer the confusion of profusion.

This is the confusion that results from having plenty to choose from. While you juggle your choices, the more nimble and focused are ruthlessly pulling ahead.

The player/person with a singular dominant skill has a Hobson’s choice. Just one option. He is forced to knuckle down, work hard and hone that attribute to perfection. That is all he/she has.

He is saved from the confusion of profusion or the paralysis of endless analysis. He/she is thus able to specialize and become the best in that niche.

While Joe Cole offered the fans a tantalizing future that never was, the clearly less multidimensional Frank Lampard soon took centre stage. He focused on becoming the most effective goalscoring midfielder in the league. Not for him the finesse of gliding past players, except with pace and power.

It is certain that time is finite. It is equally certain that finite time when spent on polishing five raw diamonds will achieve less lustre than if the time was spent on one.

What then is the Joe Cole metaphor? It is being the Jack of many trades while being the second best at all. It is for those who derive pleasure from breadth rather than depth. It also speaks of those for whom craft outshines graft.

Or indeed for those whose speed of execution is reduced by analysis paralysis. Or those for whom the gain of plenty brings the pain of procrastination.

To return to the game, we can think of the two footed player who never becomes a specialist set-piece taker on either foot.

In defence of the Joe Coles of this world;
Who needs the deep dregs of deliberation
You can have varied sips of adumbration
If the only thing you lose
For having too much to choose
Is the fate of being first-rate!

Spiritual Osmosis

Osmosis, they say is the movement of substances from a region of lower concentration to a region of higher concentration through a semipermeable membrane. Let us forget about the membrane for a minute.

For the nonscientific layman (me), I’d say it is the movement of resources, talents, gifts etc, from regions of scarcity to regions of plenty.

Spiritual gifts, by definition are the resources freely given by the Spirit of God. The Word of God in this regard is a foundational resource. The Revelation of the Word is also one of the most important spiritual blessings, the one that matters more than the others which may be flashier and have greater impact like tongues, prophecies and miracles.

Spiritual osmosis occurs when the true knowledge of the Word would diminishes among the unbelievers but increases among those walking in the Light. Instead of a diffusion (lightening the dark hearts) of the Gospel Light, you have instead, areas of blazing light and regions of gross (intense) darkness.

How can this be? Is this at all possible? It certainly is. It is a strange phenomenon that occurs at the end of an epoch, just before judgement strikes.

Lot sees and flees

At the time when God was determined to punish Sodom for her misdeeds, He went angels to her. These angels went to house of honest Lot. He was a righteous man, but found it difficult to pull away from Sodom’s society and the benefits it brought. Lot, to his credit, saw the angels and understood their message. Being forewarned, he fled with his family to the relative safety of the plains of Zoar.

So the warning angels appeared to the man who was almost ready!

While Sodom is blinded…

On the other hand, the people of Sodom were in dire need of help. The thunderclouds of sulphur and brimstone were forming above their heads. If they were spiritual, perhaps they smelt the whiff of the coming burning. They did not. They had multiple layers of ignorance.

1. They did not realize what they were doing was wrong
2. They did see the oncoming fiery judgement
3.They did not see the messengers who were sent execute the Divine sentence.

Surely a people this ignorant deserved a chance to see and understand their dire straits?

When the angels appeared, the citizens of Sodom were aware. They saw new faces and strangers in the land. They saw them but did not know their mission. Instead of the angels enlightening them, they were smitten with blindness. And the little flicker of physical recognition was snuffed out.

Thus the benighted Sodomites became even more ignorant, while Lot who knew the truth, gained more revelation.

From he that hath not:

Jesus gave us the parable of the talents. It is noteworthy that the Master gave the servants talents according to their abilities. Those that had greater capacity got more, those that could do less, got less.

The least endowed in the parable was the man that got one talent. In a fit pique, he hid his talent in the sand and did nothing with it. He gained nothing too. The others put their talents to use and made profit for the Master.

As expected the Master came back and asked for returns on his investment. The man he gave five talents showed his returns, the man with two talents did the same.

However, the hero of the drama was the man given only one talent. He produced zero return on investment.

What would the Master do now? Would he punish him? The Master’s decision was one for the ages. He took the unutilized talent of the lazy servant and handed it over to the man who already had ten talents (He made five more in trading).

Which brings us to another example of spiritual osmosis. The light that the one-talent man had was taken away from him and given to someone who already had more than enough.

It is clear then, that we need to hold tenaciously to the Word of God we know. Otherwise It could be taken away from us. The little light will turn to darkness while the bright lights of those who wholeheartedly accept the Word will become brighter still.

God forbid that we should be on the wrong side of this osmosis like the people of Sodom or the one-talent servant.

Roots Of Deepest Impulses

Where there is a deep calling
There is a deep to respond
Where there is a longing
There is also a satisfying
Where there is a sincere seeking
There is a reward of receiving
The reason we strain for life
Is there is a life without
strife
When we see the sick battling
It tells of One who does healing
Every teardrop of pain and loss
Speaks of a land without a cross
No winged bird would have been born
Without a way to fly to the sun
The reason we want to know more
Means there is more to know for sure
Many men on earth hoard gold
Unwittingly pining for a city of riches untold
If the striving for things transient
Is a sad legacy of man’s celestial bent
Better to convert these surging urges
To the high calling of Him sent
To satisfy mankind’s thirst
By restoring Eden of the blessed

The Sound of Grace

“Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth
Or childhood
I must have done something
Something good”

Sound of Music

That may be the sound of music, but it is certainly not the sound of Grace. Grace is the essence of undeserved favour. As it is written – when we were without strength (undeserving) Christ died for the ungodly.

Grace is the sunshine that shines through the rain, the pleasure that seeks through the pain, the glory that overlooks our past shame. If our adulthood blessings are a function of our childhood works then God is not gratuitous, for He owes us a debt for past services.

He owes us a debt truly, but its a debt of judgement. All our previous deeds of morality and self-righteousness count for nothing in His sight. Yet Grace came to the rescue and forgave the debt, and granted us a lease of life. From the doldrums of spiritual bankruptcy, He has given us Capital Favour to thrive with.

So never bother about a dismal past or a chequered history, the acceptance of Grace promises a new story of unfolding glory. Grace is the essence of Something coming from Nothing.

Easy Yoke(less)

A pity that a gospel built
On the foundation of self-denial
Should become a ticket
To avoid any hard trial

All upside and no downside
Is not what we were given
Not always sunny days and skies
Rain does not mean ‘not forgiven’

Paul the great apostle opines
That all godly will suffer persecution
Hindrances of different forms
What informs the modern exemption?

Faith must stand fair and foul
Victory awaits those who fight
And win war against the soul
Character is triumph over might

The Value of Little ‘Not’

The value of little ‘not’
Always underrated but
Important when unheeded
By many to great hurt

Thou shall not eat thereof
Was the command given
The reward for eating was
To fall by death’s sting

But Satan brought another
‘Not’ for he said
‘Thou shall surely ‘not’
Die the death you dread

Eve forgot the first not
For lure of the second
She traded nots and gained
Nought-for she and husband
Died in same thousand year day

One misplaced not brought
Death and human suffering
To all sages in all ages
What a single ‘not’ brought forth!

Christ has made a way back
He has bought the life Eve sought
So He must be our truth North
To navigate quick sands of Satan’s nots

We’d be nuts to reject Him for Satan’s nots
That only lead to regions fraught
With the weeping of the distraught