Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: March, 2015

That Damned NEW331 Essay

You know when you’re working on that essay for the third-year course that’s so heavy you think it’ll crush you? The one that makes you think this was the wrong path for you after all. Maybe school is just a big black hole that’ll suck you in and squish you and never let you out again. It makes you think about the night-job you left for school. Maybe you shouldn’t have left–the pay was good and the people were great, why did you ever leave it anyway? I mean, look at this ridiculously vague topic! Look at the huge wordcount that’s expected! And fifteen independent scholarly sources? No one is even studying what you’re supposed to write about! Not only that, but the professor has this air of impenetrable rigour about him–this is no humanities paper where original ideas and good spelling will get you a half-decent mark. No, no, he wants science from you. What do you know about science?! So as the deadline inches closer without your rough draft growing much larger, the weight of expectation seems to crush you.

But you’re a faithful one, in your own way, aren’t you? You fiddle with it every day, even though it hurts. You’ve got some experience in faith-walking, so you study and write and attend lecture, tearing only a bitof your hair out along the way. You might not get anywhere, but what else are you going to do?

Until you turn the Corner and a bright light appears within your mind. You get it. The rest is cake.

Why didn’t you see it before? Why were you so confused and crushed by something this…understandable? Maybe confusion and crushing lead to understanding. Maybe you were always going to grow this thing eventually–sweat for water, discipline for sunlight. Twenty bucks says that a gentle and calm spirit would have been nice fertilizer, but hey, maybe next time.

And isn’t it funny that nearly every good venture works the same way as that damned NEW331 essay?

Up in Smoke

There was a time when I just could not stand it. It was as if there was a burning pit of death in my chest that I did not have the endurance to keep carrying. People tried to encourage me with words. “He never gives us more than we can handle,” some said. I wanted to scream back, “Liar! Look at this thing I carry! Look at this amazingly effed up situation I’ve been forced in! You don’t know what it’s like! And even if you did, that does not help at all–words are wind blown from open mouth-holes. How could words help me? I cannot handle this!”

But, of course, I did handle it. I’m still here, after all. I guess it was all in my head.

That’s not totally true, of course. There was something real going on in my life that sparked the suffering. My thoughts were, “If only so-and-so were never in my life! If only so-and-so hadn’t done this, or that, or whatever! Then I’d have never lost my peace.” But that’s a half-truth only. And not a useful one, at that.

Suffering and peace only exist in my own consciousness–in my head. It was important to realize that, because it gave me the opportunity to deal with me, even if I could not deal with the situation.

I took the hand of the Beloved who suffered along with me, and together we made a list of the things that our death-like anxiety sprang from. They fit on a small slip of paper. We looked at each item, mindfully and in turn. They were not so heavy now, on that thin scrap. It seemed like we could fight back. So we set them on fire, and laughed at their fragility.

The fire-ritual didn’t change our situation, of course. The people who were actively trying to rob our peace continued their thievery. But we created distance and glimpsed into the truth that it’s all, at the end of the day, in our heads. And I get to choose what dwells in my head. The trials changed over the following months and years, and today I cannot remember what it was that destroyed my peace so utterly. Life goes on, everything changes, and the crises of today will always go up in smoke.