Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: May, 2013

Bollywood Hits – Baazigar O Baazigar

Ever watched something so awkward that you had to turn away? I love Bollywood, but the title song from Abbas-Mustan’s 1993 hit, Baazigar (Gambler), nearly broke me.

As over-the-top-ridiculous as this song is, the film itself is a serious thriller that shook Bollywood with its dark anti-hero. It was a box-office hit and Shahrukh Khan’s breakthrough role.

Go figure.

Love on the TTC

I sat under the brightly-lit overhang at Kipling Station, waiting for the 45 to take me to work.  The night was bright and living, a perfect urban evening.  A girl sat on the bench next to me, hugging her knees and hiding her face.  A boy sat on the bench next to her, trying very hard to look the other way.  When the 45 came, he mumbled something to her and walked off.  She dried her eyes and followed him.  I followed them both onto the bus.  They sat together and I sat across from them and pretended to read.

They were angry at each other.  Or sad at each other.  Or just tired.  They were probably going to spend the whole trip sad at each other.


But then one of them spoke to the other.  And the other said something back.  And they were talking.  I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I could feel it.  I could feel the sadness in the girl’s voice and its mirror in the boy’s.  The girl fidgeted with the boy’s backpack while she talked.  The boy started to look at her face instead of the floor.  They sounded defensive.  They sounded accusatory.  But they kept talking anyway, even though it looked like the words were making them feel worse.

Then there was a sudden and startling change.

The girl threw her arms around him with a sudden sob.  The boy squeezed her tight and said something loud and affectionate.  Something that spoke of promise.  The girl laughed.  The boy kissed her on the mouth and she melted into it.  Others on the bus grew embarrassed.  I grinned at them.

Thank you, you delicious people who refuse to settle for sadness and broken relationships.  Thank you for sharing peace with each other in a public place so I could watch and remember that peace is out there for anyone who wants it.

And thanks for wanting it.

Into the Thar

I took a drive into the Thar.  The sun was hot and dry and beautiful.  Sand stretched around as far as our eyesight would carry us.  We stopped the car and got out in a place without any memorable landmark.  We walked around and looked at the nearly nothing that surrounded us.

Tree in the Thar

My son was two or three.  He was enthralled by the endlessness of it.  A place without walls or horns or people.  A place where you could run without watching and fear no accident.  No ditch to fall into.  No traffic to be wary of.  Endless surface just begging to be played with.

We crouched own on the ground together and looked at the sand.  It seemed like any other sand at any beach or children’s play pit.  We picked it up in our hands and let it slip through our fingers.  Eliot was able to see fear in a handful of dust.  We saw beauty in a handful of sand.

TharDespite its playful novelty, the desert was an obviously hard place.  Everything alive had to fight to keep living.  Every dry and thorny bush.  Every skittering lizard and scorpion.  And every tree. You wouldn’t think there would be trees in the desert–and deeper into the Thar there wouldn’t even be these grasses, let alone trees.  But here there were a few daredevil khejri and neems that had managed to beat the odds to stand alone in vast fields of sand and sparse grasses.

Night fell and we were still out in the open desert.  We wandered as the stars burned against the night sky.  There were no clouds or city lights to hide them.  I had seen stars before–I had been raised on constant trips into the Canadian wilderness.  But even the vibrant stars over Temagami could not compare to the lights above the stark emptiness of Thar.

We looked up at a menagerie of flame and void.  The Milky Way scattered itself across the scene.  One Pakistani folk tale says that the Milky Way is made by the spirits of dead youth who spend eternity scattering grains of salt across the sky.  I believed it that night.

We stayed for a long time, walking, praying.  The void of desert and sky brought out something within us we all had forgotten.  A certain mysticism that all religions try to stumble toward and none really manage to grasp.  A sense of the immensity, beauty, and absurdity of existence.  An understanding of the cosmic power of love.  A yearning to fly into the waiting arms of the universe herself.

Our Birth Story

When birthing our first and second children, Ruth coped through medical technology.  Both experiences were mostly negative, which I guess is what we were expecting anyway.  I mean, who sets out to try and enjoy labour?  Even the name we give it–labour–suggests that it’s not going to be a fun thing.

Three KidsSo for our third child, we wanted to try something different.  We got hooked up with the amazing wonderful people at Kensington Midwives.  Their care and nurturing concern for us and the nascent little human freed us to look at childbirth in a different way.  No as a medical condition to deal with, but as an act of creation to enjoy and experience.  So when the contractions started on Thursday, April 25, Ruth was excited to greet them with Zen-level mindfulness.

Ruth played with her contractions as they grew and spilled over onto Friday.  She would see each one coming and, instead of bracing against it, she would breathe and watch.  She would mentally acknowledge the contraction, thank it for preparing her body for birth, and gratefully send it on its way.  And it worked.  We spent the day doing all the same things she had been doing since before the pregnancy began—walking, jogging, taking the stairs, getting hot oil massages and having wild sex.  Pretty much normal life for us.

In the wee hours of the night, Ruth woke up.  The contractions had been steadily growing in intensity and consistency and had reached a point where Ruth was having some difficulty managing while in bed.  She woke her vigorous husband at 3:00am, who drew her a bath and vigorously went back to bed.  Ruth spent half an hour in the tub, rolling with the contractions as they went through her.  After a time she got out and started pacing the house, kneeling, squatting, going on all fours, searching for a position that would give her a bit of an edge as she dealt with the tension.  And even though she had to move around the house and use all of her mindfulness to get through them, they were bearable.  Not only that, it was enjoyable and she was glad to have the opportunity to face them alone.  She woke her husband at 4:20 and they called the midwife.  The time was close.

She almost called too late.  Our on-call midwife, Sara, was half an hour away.  Sara arranged for Houley, another wonderful midwife from Kensington Midwives, to come as well, because she was already in the area finishing up another birth.  Houley arrived just as Matt finished setting up the bed for birth.  She did all the lovely midwifery stuff that midwives do, and told Ruth that if she felt like pushing she might as well go ahead and do it.

Sara, our main midwife, arrived at 5:00am, jogging with her big backpack of midwife gear.

Isaiah Dev arrived at 5:08am.

Sara caught our son as he came out and handed him to Matt who rested the child on Ruth’s belly.  He was warm and slippery, covered with the broth he had been cooked in.  And that was it.  There he was.

Out other children were born in good, modern hospitals—the first in Canada, the second in Pakistan.  Both were very safe, highly professional places.  Sanitary, organized, business-like.  Both births were very much like watching a mechanic work on your car.  There was no magic, just mechanics.  We didn’t touch our children until they were appropriately cleaned and prepared.  And even then we had to give them back so they could endure some time under that blindingly warm light with that odd goo on their eyes.  The doctors who delivered our children disappeared immediately after it was over.  Sara stayed with us for hours.  The doctors told us what choices to make.  The midwives gave us information and asked us what choices we wanted to make.  In the hospitals Ruth was a patient with a condition to be cured.  With the midwives, she was a holy person creating another person.

Sara and Safire at Kensington Midwives completely blew our minds.  We never expected the level of care they gave us.  Because of them and all the other midwives and students and staff at Kensington Midwives, Ruth not only endured her pregnancy and labour, she enjoyed them.  Labour stopped being a painful thing to get through, it became a rare and vibrant experience to drink in.  It was not labour.  It was birth.

We learned things.

We learned that labour is not a trial to be endured—it is an experience to revel in.
We learned that your mindset will determine a large part of what your experience will be.
We learned that everything goes better with mindfulness and everything goes worse with worry.
We learned that Ruth is an awesome creator of humans and had no need to wake her husband or cry out for help when it was time to give birth. She is mighty enough to rely on her own strength.

That’s our story. We cannot thank the people at Kensington Midwives enough. Thank you for showing us how powerful a mother can be. Thank you for being a part of our person-making project.

My Son’s Name

There are a few ways to name a child, if you’re mindful about it. One is to look through names, the people who held those names, and the meanings of those names, and pick one that fits the child. That’s hard, though. Because my new son does not know what he loves yet. Except breasts. He totally loves breasts (but who doesn’t?).

Or we could have chosen names as templates for the child to grow into. We could have called him William, so that he’d grow up into a guardian of humanity. Or Aaron, so he’d grow into a teacher of wisdom. But who are we to chose what he will be and what he will love?

Besides, a name does not bestow its characteristics. The rose isn’t vibrantly red, deliciously pungent or dangerously thorned because of the word rose. The word conjures those images because of the plant, not the other way around. The awesome people of the past are not awesome because of their names. Their names are awesome because of them. So instead of naming him something that we hope he will grow to emulate, we chose names that carry meanings, either by their namesake or etymology, that we value and love. The name is our birthday gift to our son—a package of syllables that communicate how we feel about him.

Our son’s name is Isaiah Dev Cook.

Born Saturday, April 27, 2013 7lbs 14oz

Born April 27 at around 5am
7lbs 14oz

Isaiah was a human. A prophet. An intelligent flesh and blood creature who looked to the sky and perceived the creator’s will. He preached love and compassion and understanding. His words became the thesis for our i117 widow’s aid project (Isaiah 1:17). His views on fasting tear apart religious conventions and bring them down to a place that focuses on the needs of fellow humans (Isaiah 58). And it is in his writings that some of the most honoured pictures of the Christ, the archetype of perfect love, can be found (Isaiah 53).

My son’s name is Isaiah—the human who could hear the voice of God. The name is not a template for him to live up to, or a religious identifier, but an image of the perfect kind of humanity that Ruth and I love. It is a nascent echo of the most perfect expression of love finally uttered by the man Isaiah was pointing to: “Do as you would be done by” (Matthew 7:12).

Dev (affectionately Deva) is an ancient Sanskrit name that means ‘Divine’ or, in many instances, ‘God.’ Because my son is not just a creature. He is not only an animal. Attached to his frail physical form is a shard of God. A slice of divine, wrapped in a warm blanket of humanity. Dev is a name that reminds us of the meaning behind the ancient greeting of Namaste: “That which is divine in me salutes that which is divine in you.”

My son’s name is Dev—the sparkling divine being. Because when I hold him in my arms I cradle the living universe. Because he has consciousness and divine light and understanding inside of him that can only grow greater and stronger. Because he is a vibrant fraction of God. And if God is infinite, what is the weight of a fraction of God?

My son’s name is Isaiah Dev Cook. We use both names when we speak to him because he is both. He is the spiritual animal and the fleshy divine. He is the marriage between creation and creator. He is just like you. He is just like me.

And his names are reminders for us. When we get frustrated with his antics, because all children eventually frustrate their parents with their antics, we will have to pause when we call him. How can you speak angrily to Isaiah, the human who can hear the voice of the Universe? How can you yell at Dev, a pure slice of God? How can we do anything for our son, and our other children, but care for them and guide them and cherish them?

Thanks for all your happy well-wishes. I hope you get to meet Deva soon.