The Fading Significance of Remorse

2b6826f5af0bd50fc72475477179bda9.img“Ja, there’ll be a few sore heads in the Western Province today,” Servaas, an old Province supporter, smiles happily. “We certainly beat them fair and square.”

“Not so. No fair. One successful kick and the tables would have been turned. The Lions played their hearts out, you have to give them that.” Vetfaan, whose loyalty towards the more northern team never wavered, stares wistfully into his empty glass. “if only…”

If doesn’t count, the score board does. And it’s there for everybody to see: we won. That result is now history – fifty years from now the statisticians will look at it and nobody will worry about how it came about. Rugby isn’t for sissies, Vetfaan. You have to take what’s coming to you, like a man.”

The conversation slews this way and that, but the central theme remains the Lion’s defeat at the hands of Province. Vetfaan said something about penalties missed, opportunities that went begging.

“Ag, it’s Life, Vetfaan.” Kleinpiet puts a comforting arm around his friend’s shoulder. “Win some, lose some. No use crying over spilt milk.”

Boggel serves another round before joining the conversation. “That’s the problem these days. People aren’t allowed to feel sorry anymore. It’s not fashionable to express grief. Why, whenever something goes wrong, you simply blame somebody else, the system, the legacy of the past or any lame excuse you can think of. And you know what? Then people forget about it and the next catastrophe pops up. Life, as we know it, has become a string of disasters, one following the other, and we’ve become immune to the results of such. Take e-toll, Nkandla, the Arms Deal, corrupt ministers and so many officials and administrators who erode the fabric of our society. Even worse: take the huge interest in the various court cases we hear about every day.” He is, of course, referring to the Pistorius and Dewani cases. “Do we still stop and think about these? Are we still able to distinguish between right and wrong? And do we pause for a moment to consider the men and women behind these incidents?

“No, we say it’s spilt milk, we don’t cry about it, and simply continue building little mental forts to hide in. As long as we can play ostrich-ostrich, we don’t have to think. And that, I think, is bad.

“But when we consider sport, we become changed men. We shout. We express opinions, we celebrate and we grieve. Why? Because for too many people, the only real thing they see, is sport. It’s transparent,it’s actual, and the scoreline is final. There’s no appeal, no replay. A dropped pass is a dropped pass. The kick that missed, remains a scoring opportunity gone begging. And that, I think, appeals to people because there’s discipline, logic and finality involved. Those things are sadly lacking in everyday life.”

It’s Gertruida, who knows everything, who nods. Yes, Boggel is right. Modern Man is becoming progressively impassive to unfolding events. It’s almost as if we expect failure – as if the only way to handle Life, is to become so self-centered that we shrink the world to be the thin timeline we live on.

“It is,” she says, “because we refuse remorse and grief to play a part in our everyday lives. And that’s where the Bible leads a few of us astray, Oudoom.” She watches the old Pastor’s face blanche. “No, listen to what I’m saying before you react.

“How many times have you told us not to judge? Isn’t it central to our faith? We say we mustn’t reprove.” She pauses while Oudoom takes a deep breath. “But what about forgiveness? How can you forgive, if you haven’t formed an opinion? And without an opinion – or judgement – you cannot decide that something is right or wrong. It’s fundamental to the act of forgiveness to have judged something to be improper.

“Once we can forgive, we can allow remorse, for it’s only forgiveness that sets the stage for remorse. So what happens in society? We don’t judge kindly, we don’t forgive, and thus nobody has to express remorse. We become callous and unfeeling, little armored amoebas drifting along in the sludge that surrounds us, because we don’t allow us to be honest with ourselves – and go through life as isolated as we possibly can. The concept of a sympathetic society that acts as a unit, has ceased to exist. We have become Homo Pachydermacallous, the final stage in evolution.”

All this is way too much for Kleinpiet, who enjoyed the Currie Cup Final tremendously.

“Gee, guys, do we have to psychoanalyse civilisation because the Lions lost? Can’t we just be normal and celebrate the victors – as well as commiserate with the losers.?”

“That’s the point, Kleinpiet. We need to feel – both sides. Express emotion. Laugh a little. Cry a bit. That’s the only way to experience Life as it should be. And let me remind you: such emotions are judgement calls as well. We can decide to be happy – or sad – because we’ve analysed the situation. Then, once again, we become captains of our own ships: individuals with an opinion – but members of a larger body,”

“I don’t understand what this has to do with rugby.” Servaas has lost the point in the conversation right in the beginning. He only expressed his joy at his team winning, after all.

“Rugby is much like life, Servaas. In Life, we also have a referee, a game plan and a limited time to play. Then, along the way, things go right…or wrong. When the final whistle sounds, one may have stacked up enough points to win…or lose. Somehow I don’t think it matters much whether you founded Microsoft or lived a pauper’s life on the sidewalk. What matters is how you lived the life you were given. Did you, in essence, play the game? How did you treat your fellow man? What – and how – did you say things to your neighbour? Were you kind in your judgement and what role did forgiveness play?” Despite Gertruida’s explanation, Servaas retains his puzzled look.

“Look, Servaas.” Oudoom seems to have recovered from Gertruida’s remarks. “what our panel of psychoanalysts seem to say, is that we should do in Life as we do in sport. Feel, shout, celebrate, grieve…and even love. Look at you, Servaas: when that final whistle blew, you whooped with joy. Vetfaan, however, emitted a constipated groan.  Now – the question is this: why do we allow ourselves to experience sport in so many more colours than we live in every day? Why does Vetfaan feel worse about a three-point difference, than about the killing, the rape and the corruption in the country? And yes, Gertruida may be right: it’s because we stopped thinking about such things. That’s why, my friend, we need to bring back remorse and reality to our lives. If our government expressed these emotions about some of their decisions, we’d be able – at last – to judge them fairly. They’d get my vote the moment they become honest about their feelings.”


Sometimes, Boggel will tell you, he wishes he could write about the things they talk about in his little bar. The conversations don’t always follow a logical line, but – if you listened carefully – you’d find s few nuggets of wisdom hidden in the musings of his patrons.

But –  he says – he won’t bother putting these wisdoms to paper. People won’t read them, he says, and if they do, they’d most probably reject them as idealistic and even romantic. And, as we all know, Life is too real for fantasy.

Ask any Lion supporter if you don’t believe him.,..


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