Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: August, 2012

Insatiable Curiosity

I’ve been looking over the amazing photos that the Curiosity Rover has been sending back from Mars.  This photo is my favourite so far.  Go look at it.

As I looked at this photo, zooming in to check out the rocks and gravel covering the ground, it suddenly hit me that we’re on our way.  The solar system is not nearly as big as it used to be.  Human creativity, curiosity and ingenuity are all so great that we will never be satisfied with these photos.  As amazing and wonderful the rovers are, they are not good enough.  It’s great that we can analyze the molecular structures of rocks on another world, but we won’t be satisfied until we hear the crunching of Martian gravel beneath our feet.

We’re going to go to Mars someday.

The first man to walk on the moon is dead.  That’s significant in so many ways.  We have been able to leave this planet and walk on other worlds so long that the first one to do it is no longer with us.  We’re not really new to this anymore.  Now it’s no longer a race to perform the miracle of setting foot on another world, it’s just the work and wait until we finally do it.  We’re going to do it.  No question.  And that’s very exciting to me.  I only hope I’m still alive when we finally get there.

What a wonderful universe we live in.  I’m so thankful that we are a curious species.

Here Goes Nothing

First off, it was chilly.  It’s hard to do anything in the water while it’s chilly.

The whole group of us paddled to the jumping rocks anyway, even though I made it clear I wasn’t going to jump.  The lowest rocks were seventeen feet above the water and I don’t do heights so well.  But it’s always fun to watch my brothers leap off the rocks.  I usually don’t like being a spectator, but when it comes to flinging my body off a cliff I’m content to be the armchair athlete.

My son, it turns out, is not nearly as content.

His jaw hung open when he saw my brothers flying through the air.  He turned to me.

“I want to do it,” he said.

“You’re only seven,” I told him, as if he didn’t know.

“I’ll wear a life jacket.”

I was about to forbid him.  I really was, I promise.  But that most interesting of all adverbs gave me pause.


Why tell this young dare devil no?

Why tell him to act his age?

Why refuse his desire to push himself beyond his limits and seek the special place where the magic happens?

Because the magic always happens on the edge, or just over it.  It always happens in those places that we fear to go.  Out of the zone of comfort and familiarity.

“Sure, Joe.  Go for it.”

Five minutes later he was at the top of the cliff, inching to the edge and shaking all over in fear and excitement.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“You can do it,” I called.  “It’ll be fun.”

He put his toes on the edge and gazed down.

“Here goes nothing,” he called.  And he pushed himself off.

He hung in mid air for a moment.  His arms were outstretched and waving.  His feet floated in the air beneath him.  His face wore the look of joy and terror and life.

He was where the magic happens.

Here goes nothing.

Sliding Up

All my life I was cautioned against doing things, not because those things were bad, but because they could have led to bad.

Don’t drink because you might become a drunk.

Don’t watch Nova because you might become an atheist.

Don’t have sex because that could lead to dancing.

Don’t open your mind because your brains may fall out.

Seeds of fear, sown from childhood on.  Not from my parents, interestingly enough, but from teachers and preachers.  You’ve felt them.  You’ve probably sown some yourself.  People live in constant fear and refuse to do things they’d like to try purely on the grounds of what they may want to try next.  Fear of the slippery slope.

But can’t the slippery slope go the other way, too?

If I walk to work instead of drive, could that lead me to a healthier lifestyle?

If I cut down on my clothing expenses, could that lead me to a less materialistic attitude?

If I write up a cheesy scene about a guy on a bus, could I write something bigger some day?

I’m not afraid of the slippery slope anymore.  I used to be.  I’d turn the channel whenever a science show came on, fearing I might become an atheist again and go to hell because I guess God hates it if you think the universe is as old as it looks.  I’d stay away from booze because, even though I have a normal person’s self-control, I figured I might become a raging drunkard.  I said ‘no’ to many good things, purely on the grounds of where they might possibly maybe lead me in the future.  It was a stupid fear.  A self-destroying fear.

I think the slippery slope concept is true, but mostly in the opposite way.  You want to excel at something?  Start it.  The slope will carry you.  Because your spirit wants to soar.  The universe wants to hear what you have to sing.  Just start sliding.  Walk to work one day a week.  Get up early to pray or meditate for a couple minutes.  Write that cheesy bus scene that’s been in your head.  It’ll take you somewhere.

The Gravity of Gravity

We’re getting ready to start home schooling our kids.  This gives me a great excuse to buy all manner of geeky science toys to play with.  A few weeks ago my kids were having a blast playing with magnets, trying to figure out what is affected by magnets and seeing the beautiful patterns iron filings can be put into.  We all experienced that awe of seeing something invisible have a strong effect on the things we can see.

I was thinking about that as I walked to the bus yesterday.  And a thought struck me so hard that I stopped walking and looked down at my feet.


Every single second of my life, this massive ball of matter is pulling at me, trying to suck me inside its centre.  All the time.  I’m plastered to its side.  I can’t get away from it, though it’s completely invisible.  I stood there for five minutes, awe-struck.  There were people at the bus stop staring at me.  I didn’t care.

“Look at this!” I wanted to yell at them.  “We’re all stuck to the earth!  Look!  It’s gravity!

And that made me think of the larger-scale gravity wowzer of earth being tossed around the sun.  The massive thing that is sucking at me is getting sucked at by another big-huge-sucking thing!  Oh, and that one is made of nuclear explosions.  Whaaaaat?

So, I just want to share this to you.  Look to the ground, feel its girth, pulling at you.  Look to the stars, feel their distance, so great that the light you are seeing is billions of years old.  Look to your own consciousness, feel the mind and the perspective that has spawned technologies, arts and religions that have built and destroyed worlds.

The universe is full of greatness in all the things that we see every day.  I hope you pause every once in a while, as you walk to the bus stop, to drink a bit of it in.

Sermons and Stuff

People often get surprised when they find out I’m a preacher.  They get even more surprised when they find out I mostly preach in evangelical fundamentalist churches.  I remember one man, when he found out I was a preacher, asked “So, you part of the Church of the Universe or something?”

Yes.  Yes, I am.

I enjoy preaching and the wicked-cool opportunity it gives me to throw ideas about love around.  And, since I didn’t have much else to say this morning, I figured I’d give you a link to the last two sermons I preached, both of them on the favourite passage of weddings: First Corinthians 13.  Love, baby.  It’s all about love.

What is Love? Pt. 1

What is Love? Pt. 2

Hope it makes you want to love more.  If it doesn’t, then one of us missed the point.

Sometimes Art is Like…

Sometimes art is like the little girl who was drawing a picture in art class.  Her teacher walked over to her and stood behind her for a moment, trying to figure out exactly what her student was drawing.  It was nearly impossible to make out.  The girl’s crayons danced on the page, scattering colours and shapes all around.  In some places it was wild and frenzied.  In others it was sober and serious.  In a few places, it looked downright childish and silly.  Finally the teacher couldn’t be bothered to guess anymore.

“What are you drawing, dear?” she asked.

“God,” the student replied without looking up.

The teacher gave a wry smile.  “But no one knows what God looks like, dear.”

The student leaned in close to her page, sticking her tongue out as she laid down a streak of deep red.  “They will in a minute,” she said.

Sometimes art dares to touch the things that cannot be touched.  Sometimes it tries to see the things that cannot be seen.  Sometimes it succeeds and turns around to show it to us.

Book Review: White Flour

On May 26, 2007, the Ku Klux Klan planned a march in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Opponents tried to figure out a way to oppose their racist, hateful messages without stooping to hatred themselves.  They decided to start a troop of clowns called the Coup Clutz Clowns who would intentionally misunderstand the Klan’s message and make gentle fun of it.

White Flour, by David LaMotte, tells that story in a picture book for children.

I was so excited when I first heard about this book.  I get a tad upset when I see some of the banal books out there that people try to push on children.  I swear if I see one more adaptation of Noah’s Ark I’m gonna snap.  I mean, what ding-dong thought that a story of divine genocide would be good for kids just because of the cute handful of animals that made it through the watery apocalypse?

But finally we have a book for children that is not patronizing.  A book that does not feel the need to dumb-down some of the most difficult dilemmas of life.  A book that tells our kids a story that they really need to hear.  The story of standing against violence and oppression without resorting to violence and oppression.  The story of using laughter and joy to combat hatred and bigotry.  The story of overcoming evil with good.  The story that shows that you don’t need fire in order to fight fire.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

– Martin Luther King Jr.

White Flour is an important book and I recommend it highly.  There are aspects of the story that parents will need to explain to their children, like what the KKK is all about and why it’s important to stand against messages of hate like theirs.  It’s important to me that my children see examples of people standing up against evil in pure, non-violent, non-hateful ways.  White Flour stands as a monument to a small group of people who found a Jesus-like way to push back the darkness of racism and hate.  I treasure this book and hope you all grab yourself a copy.

And what would be the lesson of that shiny southern day?
Can we understand the message that the clowns sought to convey?
Seems that when you’re fighting hatred, hatred’s not the thing to use!
So here’s to those who march in in their big red floppy shoes!