The Phillip Hughes story gripped a nation. So much potential felled in an instant. Grief amplified by promise and love lost. Phillip was a Little Aussie Battler like us. But what promise! Looming all the larger because it is gone.
Pup becomes a tower of strength. We see him in a new light. Rival teams are at one. The game is bigger than the individual. The Adelaide Test is both contest and tribute. An injured but newly-inspired captain makes the right calls, hits another century and wins; all the more meaningful because of a valiant, striving opponent. David Warner salutes heaven for his century. We intuitively know what he means. A great story.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast. You can put up with grief if there is hope that things will be better. Only when all hope is gone do we get the apocalypse.
El Greco’s painting of The Adoration of the Magi tells a like story.
The adorable baby is all light. Then an amazed onlooker raises his arms - and we see a cross. The scene is both hopeful and ominous. We can never completely avoid jeopardy. The dispossessed shepherds find hope in this child. The angels’ joyful banner reads “we praise you, we bless you, we glorify you” Yet the cross looms over all. Christmas is Act I.
Act II – Easter - completes the story. The loss is devastating. The death is cruel, unjust. But life conquers death. “Death and Life fight a duel. Life’s hero endures death - then reigns alive”. That’s the founding myth that drives Christianity.
Sitting under the banyan tree telling stories doesn’t put bread on the table. Cold, hard logic is what gets things organized. We need law and order, rights and duties and a fair society. Not much time for stories when balancing the budget, increasing productivity or maintaining law and order. It’s hard heads that make society work.
But Christmas keeps both storytellers and hard heads happy. We buy up to give our gifts to those who share our story. Andrew Greeley once said that Christians stick to their faith because they like the stories. We are a motley mob who makes sense of life by recounting our myths.
Like Albert Facey we live a fortunate life. Losing Phillip reminds us of our wins as well as our losses. No wonder we love Christmas.