Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: December, 2013

The thing about Christmas

Jesus was a revolutionist.  I guess that word is loaded.  I usually think about people like Che Guevara when I hear it.  It’s hard to see how the same word can apply to gentle Jesus, meek and mild.  But it does.  Because Jesus started a dramatic and wide-reaching change.  The world is a better place because of him.  Sure, there have been horrendous things done by people who thought they were working on his behalf.  But I bet they would have done those horrendous things anyway.  They’d have just found some other figure or religion to justify them.

For me, Christmas is still a time to celebrate Jesus.  Because no matter what I think about who Jesus “really was,” he’ll always be the first one who showed me how someone can love their enemies and stop grasping the fleeting wealth and vapoury things of the world.  He’ll always be the first one who showed me that real love is bigger and scarier than I could have imagined.  He lived the path of love so wonderfully that it killed him.  And the miracle of it was that he made it all seem worth it.

So I still celebrate Jesus, in my own little way.  I still keep Christ in Christmas.  Not by shouting his name or correcting people when they say Happy Holidays.  I do it by being thankful that he walked the earth and shared his ideas.  I do it by taking his ideas as my own and doing my part toward bringing the Kingdom of Heaven (as I understand it) to earth.  And when I do that, Christmas isn’t a burden.  Because it’s not about gifts and shopping.  It’s a loud and boisterous reminder of a gentle and subversive teacher who wanted to turn the world upside-down with love.

The things I’m grateful for today

I’ve come to believe that grateful appreciation is one of the keys to happiness.  And the nicest thing about grateful appreciation is that I can do it any time, no matter what.  It’s easy to make a list of the things that make me grateful today.

  • For Joe, who came into our room when he heard Dev wake up, just to take him into the living room so Ruth and I could get a few more minutes of sleep.
  • For Asha, who came in shortly after to wake us up by crawling all over us, just like kids in the movies do.
  • For Dev, who is determined to figure out how to stand up without support, no matter how many times he falls.
  • For Ruth, who shared my breakfast and my journey in the snow.  Who always shares my meals and journeys.

Those are just the obvious ones.  But when I’m mindful, every moment is full of things to appreciate.

  • The challenge of study and exams.
  • The dense snowfall, making  my walks downtown other-worldly.
  • The frigid wind that bites my face.
  • The way the dancing snow only sticks to the parts of the trees where two branches meet.
  • The sense of triumph when I finally arrive at Robarts Library.
  • The standing in line with other shivering, studying students aching for coffee.
  • The smell of the Reading Room.
  • The view from my cubicle.
  • The feel of the keyboard under my fingers.

This is where happiness is: mindfulness in each moment.  Recognizing that each moment is the best moment.  That Today is always the very best day.

The thing about Reason

They tell me that I should not rely on my Reason.  It’s faulty, after all.  Prone to bias and laziness.  It’s a good point.  But what should I rely on, then?  Which rule is higher or more reliable than my Reason?

The Absolute is higher.  That it makes sense.  There’s nothing Absolute about me.  So I’ll never be Absolutely right on my own.

But where is the Absolute?  Well, that depends on who I ask.

When I ask the religious friend, they point to God.  Rather, they use their Book to point to God.  Makes sense.  But how can I know that the Book is from / pointing to the Absolute?  I can only see one way of justifying a Book: by weighing and judging it through my imperfect but thoroughly lovely Reason.

Sure, I suppose I could engage it through other faculties.  A friend once told me he trusted his Book because of the positive spiritual feeling it gave him when he read it.  But I get similar feelings when I listen to Matt Redman, Noah and the Whale, and the Portal 2 soundtrack.

Others have told me to engage the Book with Faith.  I’ve never been clear on what that means.  It sounds like accepting something with the kind of trust a child might have.  If that were a good route I’d just accept whatever Book I was first given.

No, it’s my Reason that needs to be convinced that a certain Book or Word comes from the Absolute.

My Reason isn’t perfect.  It’s like a sharp tool.  It’ll hurt me if I use it wrong.  It’ll dull if I use it wrong.  I’ve misused it in the past, I expect I’ll misuse it in the future.  I’d wager I’m misusing it in some way now.  Sure.  But it seems to be one of the best tools I have.  And using it clumsily is better than not using it at all.

The thing about identity

Will I consciously construct my own identity?

Or take the one given to me?

Who is to say which is the nobler choice?

The thing about binary watches

I have a binary watch. It serves the dual purpose of making me look cool and helping my addition skills. It also frustrates the mind out of me. Which is good. Because when I get frustrated trying to read my watch, I usually give up and realize, hey, time is all made up anyway and it doesn’t really matter if I’m late.

I’m like Gandalf, now. Never late, never early, I show up right when I intend to.

Some of the best writing

Late, as usualIt’s right after you thought about going to bed. You decide to squeeze in an hour of Skyrim. Then your mind wanders a bit—the game can’t hold it. It drifts toward to that thing you’re writing. You pause the game to brew a cup of herbal. While the water’s on, you grab your manuscript and flip it open to the next bit to work on. You read it for a bit. You’re not planning to do anything with it tonight, of course. You’ve already filled your daily quota. But there’s something sticky about it. When you touch it, it’s hard to put it down. You grab a pen and make a few notes in the margin. Just a scribble. But then the scribble takes off on its own. Before you know it, you’re in the chair with the too-bright desk lamp shining on your wonderful doings. You’ve got a paragraph and a half done and your face takes on that goofy blank you get when something grabs you. And there’s something else going on. A smile plays at the corner of your mouth. You’re not just making the thing anymore. You’re consuming it. You’re not just writing the story. You’re reading it and enjoying the hell out of it. When the kettle on the stove whistles, you jump in surprise, then run to get it so you can get back to the desk before you miss anything.

You don’t get to bed until late. But you sleep wonderfully.