Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: March, 2014

Hey Ruth, you’re coming home.

I bet you’ll be reading this during your billion-hour layover at JFK. There’s nothing worse than being bored, so here’s some things that you can do to occupy your time:

  • Watch Nyan Cat.

The Nyan cat is Zen. She is absurd, yet there she is. She speaks, yet she makes no sense. And that’s okay because you’re in an airport and the only reason you are there is to leave.

  • Watch Frozen’s Let it Go

The only problem with this song is how long is lives in your head once you’ve heard it. But I figure it wouldn’t be bad for you to have a song stuck in your head right now. You’ve got nothing else to do, right?

  • Watch Strangers

It’s not creepy. See, this lady even videos when she people watches. And she makes it look classy. You totally look classier when you people watch, though.

  • Talk to Strangers

I remember having great talks with strangers in airports. Everyone there is as bored as you, and I bet they’d love it if you said ‘hi.’

  • Watch a Movie

Here’s the iconic Khabi Khushi Khabie Gham, starring basically everyone in Bollywood. The first Bollywood movie I ever saw.

  • Listen to an Alan Watts Lecture

Partially for the zen, but mostly for the soothing British voice telling you that nothing’s worth worrying about.

And if all else fails:

  • Watch the Infinite Nyan Cat

Not truly infinite, of course. Ten hours is the limit that any computer is willing to loop this video.

There you go, Ruth. I hope that burns a couple hours for you.

Anything else I’d like to say is better said when you get here.

See you soon.

I’ll see you soon.

Hey Ruth, the Crazy is over

It’s all done, more or less. Sure there’s exams still, but that’s a month away. And I have a couple Physics assignments, but they’re pretty tiny. Other than that, it’s all more or less done.

But then the dry erase markers didn’t erase…

I like the crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t pick it. It’s like the guy from Wolf of Wall Street said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Guess what? I’d choose rich every time.” I don’t think I’d ever choose the crazy. But I’m glad it happens–every once in a while. It’s like a workout.

The first thing to take down was Psychology. The text is thick. For Monday’s midterm we had to know 300 pages of it, plus anything from the four 3-hour lectures we’d had since our last test. You should have seen the crowd in the exam building ten minutes before the test started. These poor kids were terrified. Most of them were staring at hand-scribbled study sheets, trying to cram one or two extra units of info before the horror.

I, of course, owned the test. And I did it with a smile. That’s part of the solution to the crazy right there–a smile. It can be fun. The test essay doesn’t have to be this horrendous thing that I’m forced to endure. It could be a project I’ve been asked to build.

I had my eye on this test for a while. I was disappointed in my grade on the last test in this class–here was my redemption (this way of thinking makes the game all the more fun, too). I bought a huge cheap linoleum tablecloth–the kind you’d use on a picnic table. It’s pinned on our wall now, filled with delicious psychology scribbles. It’s a fun way to study.

My eighteen-year-old classmates can’t do it, though. They can’t turn it into fun. They can’t appreciate the Crazy. I don’t blame them. They’ve been enduring school since they could form memories. University is just the next thing you’re supposed to do. That sort of perspective makes the awesome things hard to see.

I think it’s great that you and I can see the awesome things in everything. That might be one of the secrets to our own awesomeness.

It’d be awesome if everyone could see the awesome in everything.

Have a great Sunday, Ruth. I’ll see you soon.

Hey Ruth, I’ve been away

It was the Dave’s birthday this past weekend. Asha and I had a good time down in Welland. Such a good time that I wasn’t able to say Hey at all. Oops.

It’s a busy week coming up, too. I have two essays, a mid-term, and a physics assignment all due this week. It’s just like That One Week last semester. Remember That One Week?

So I’ll turn the saying Hey business over to Asha this morning. Here’s the song she sang for you and Joe and Dev:

She wants to make more of these for you. Maybe tomorrow we’ll do some Rihanna.

Have a musical day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

Hey Ruth, how’s the weather?

Every once in a while I look up what the weather is like in Sanghar. I bet it’d be so easy to be a TV weatherman in Pakistan.

“Today will be sunny, with a high of 33. Tomorrow will be sunny, with a high of 33. Sunday will be mostly sunny, with a high of 36. Then Monday will be sunny once more, with a high of 33.”

Wanna see what the weather’s like in Toronto, dear? Look:

I figure you might as well imagine that this is what I walk through every day. Multiple times a day.

Because of the two essays, one midterm and a physics assignment all due next week, that’s about all I have to say Hey about today.

Have a pleasantly warm eleventh day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

Hey Ruth, I’m writing essays and stuff

I find, though, that it’s hard to talk to others about the excitement I get from doing all this school stuff. Right now I’m writing an essay on the subject of change and relativism in Montaigne’s work. It’s very exciting. Until I tell others about it.

“Phaw, that’s dumb,” they say. “What a pointless topic. Why don’t they teach you something useful?

I feel like if the thing you’re doing doesn’t cure cancer or make money, people think there’s no point to it. Which is funny and sad. I sometimes wish I could turn it on its head. I can imagine someone telling me about their day at work.

“Phaw, that’s dumb,” I’d say. “What’s the point in going to work?”

“Money, duh,” they’d reply.

“What’s the point in money? Can’t eat it.”

“I can buy things with it. Food and rent and video games and stuff.”

“What’s the point in food and rent and video games?”

“They’re fun!” he’d say, justifiably annoyed with me.

And then I’d ask the most profound stupid question I can think of: “What’s the point in fun?”

But there is no point. Fun is awesome in itself. That’s why people work long hours–to get money that buys them fun. Too bad the money is put in such a focus that folks forget it’s just a means to an end. We feel so sad when we check out at the grocery store, as we hand over wads of paper in exchange for awesome edibles.

I like the essays. I enjoy examining Montaigne’s understanding of organic change and relativism in the light of Augustine’s progressive change rooted in absolutism. It’s fun. It makes my day. If I had the time, I would probably do it even if they didn’t promise me a grade and a degree at the end. Just like I’ll keep writing novels no matter how many rejection slips show up in my inbox. The reward for this labour is not coming later–I’m enjoying it now.

Like the Preacher said,

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.

Enjoy the toil of your tenth day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

Hey Ruth, I figured out Time Dilation

This physics class has been a blast. But it’s given me a bit of a headache. It’s not because I don’t understand what’s going on. It’s just that it’s hard to put into words the things that I’m learning.

It looked something like this.

Take Time Dilation, for example. Now, I’ve been into sci-fi for as long as I can remember. I’ve known for a while that the universe has this strange quirk that screws with time. Imagine I were to put you on a spaceship and blast you off toward some nearby star at a crazy, close-to-light speed. If you slingshot around that star and come back here, you’d find that I had aged a lot more than you had. Time went slower for you, the traveler, than it did for me.

Screwy, eh?

Like I said, I’ve known that for a while. A lot of science fiction books make use of that quirk. But I’ve never really gotten it. There’s a huge difference between knowing something and getting something. Then today my physics TA drew a weird little graph and it suddenly made the whole thing click for me. I finally got it. It was great, because getting a thing kinda makes it beautiful, doesn’t it?

I envy the sky you fall asleep under. The bright stars of Pakistan always gave me a delicious sense of the immensity of the universe and the smallness of everything going on down here. See those vast contrasts in one view helps put everything into a proper perspective, doesn’t it?

Awe is the salve that will heal our eyes
– Rumi

Have an awe-filled ninth day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

Hey Ruth, I have conquered.

The day has come at last. I had lost hope. You’d have to admit that you were starting to doubt we’d be able to overcome this obstacle. Remember when we faced it the first time? How terrifying it was? how utterly hopeless it seemed. I feel like I only tried to overcome it out of duty–I never expected that we’d be able to get over it.

We did, of course. It took ages, it seemed, but we finally beat it. To be honest, though, I felt that things worked out because of luck, rather than our good choices. It didn’t matter at the time, I was just glad it was gone.

And then we faced it again. I suppose we always knew it would come back on us. And because I attributed our original victory to luck, I had even less hope when it came again. Strange, isn’t it? We faced this issue before and won, and because we won, I had less hope when it came again?

I hardly bothered to try and overcome it. I just let it sit there, languishing. I failed to overcome mostly because I rarely bothered to try.

But I couldn’t leave it forever. It’s in my nature to strive. And so, one day when I had no expectation of victory, I noticed that I was near victory.

My heart started pounding. I brought my full attention to the problem. Could it be? I threw my skill against it, and I found that my skill was sufficient. More than sufficient, even. I conquered. With style, even. My heart leapt for joy. Level 323 of Candy Crush was beaten. And now I am the ubermensch. And you owe me a beer.

Have an overcoming eighth day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

Hey Ruth, it’s Sunday

The day of rest. I love rest. It’s important to get it. Without proper sleep, my memory, mood, and immune system all start going screwy. But I’m not really even talking about sleep. Just rest.

As much as I love rest, I sometimes find it hard to get it–though not because there are no opportunities. I feel this tension inside that’s always trying to get me to do something, even when there’s nothing that needs to be done. It’s almost as if I feel guilty for enjoying a peaceful moment. Product of my culture, I guess. Maybe we feel guilty about resting because we think we owe it to the world to be busily doing something. We feel as if we have to pull our own weight, or something. It’s a shame.

I like to sit. Not sit around or sit and wait. Just mindfully and simply sit. You’ll notice that basically every land-walking animal on the planet will take some time out of the day to just sit. Except us. We’ve got it in our heads that if what we’re not doing or making something, we’re wasting our time. As if there was anything else we could possibly do with time. That reminds me of a capping phrase from the Zenrin Kushu:

Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.

Have a restful seventh day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

Hey Ruth, Shakespeare is pretty cool

I’m devouring Othello for English class right now. You’d love it. It’s about an African Muslim guy who marries a Venetian Christian girl–pretty wild for the 1600s. It doesn’t end happy, but it’s a fun ride.

Near the opening there’s a few scenes of angry Europeans talking about how horrible it is that a decent white girl ended up with a dirty Moor. They say it’s immoral. Irrational. Disgusting. The girl’s father, Brabantio, says,

For if such actions may have passage free,
Bondslaves and pagans shall our statesmen be.

Funny thing is, he was right. As soon as we allow people to hook up with whoever they want–regardless of race, sexuality, religion, etc–homogeneity can’t exist anywhere. Diversity reaches all levels of society. Brabantio thought it was a horrible idea. But he never got a chance to see how fun diversity is. Look at this awesome family we are building! Our children have a rare chance of rising above the tangled chains that hold down the people in my culture and the people in yours. Freedom comes through diversity.

Brabantio and the others were concerned with vaporous things like honour and propriety. Those things are all well and good, until they start to ruin fun. I can’t imagine how boring life would be if I had married someone who was like me. I’m thankful that you are so amazingly different and strange. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I miss you and the fun we have together. Here’s a little ditty Othello used to seduce his wife (you know, before he was driven mad with jealousy by his adviser, Iago. Everything kinda turns yucky after that):

Come, my dear love,
The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue,
That profit’s yet to come ‘tween me and you.

I’ll let you decide what profit means. 

Have a diverse sixth day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

PS – Remember that awesome version of Hamlet we watched with Kenneth Branagh? He’s in a film version of Othello with Lawrence Fishburn. Looks fun. We’ll watch it when you get back.

Hey Ruth, remember Valentine’s Day?

I don’t really remember Valentine’s Day. Did we do anything? I think things were pretty busy. And we’ve never cared about that sort of thing, anyway. But I had planned to write this really cute and cuddly Pokemon romance fanfic for you. It would have been great. Seriously.

Opposite. But secretly the same.

Opposite. But secretly the same.

I’d have made the story about Umbreon and Espeon. Because they’re opposites. But secretly they’re the same. I think it would have opened with a cute little Umbreon walking through the woods. I picture Umbreon looking a bit sad or lonely. Then, suddenly, a scampy little Espeon shows up. Maybe Espeon bursts through the foliage and tumbles into Umbreon. It’d be cute.

I’m not sure what would have happened after they found each other in the woods. I bet Espeon would have loved to roll around in a bright meadow. I think Umbreon would have been curious about exploring the dark forest. The thing about bright meadows and dark forests, though, is that they are less fun to be in when you’re alone. So Espeon would convince Umbreon to roll around in the bright meadows and chase butterflies. Umbreon would enjoy it, because Espeon was there. Then Umbreon would convince Espeon to slip through the dark forest and they’d chase mice and eat berries that made their tummys hurt. And Espeon would love it, because even a tummyache can be fun when you share it with your opposite who’s secretly the same as you.

I could never figure out where the story went after that. It kinda kept going on and on because there are always more meadows to roll in and dark forests to explore. I couldn’t write it with words. But that’s okay. I feel like we’re writing it together with our lives. Like Rumi said:

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

Have a story-worthy fifth day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.