Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Category: Hey Ruth

15 Years and Counting

During some intensive spring cleaning I stumble across a thick bundle of papers and folders: immigration documents from the first couple years of marriage. Included are several evidences of our mutual affection such as love letters, wedding favours, gifts, and signed statements–we had to prove our relationship was real.

Reading through, I remember how much we’ve changed.
First we were kids, entralled by a wide-looking world.

Behold, the one-legged goose!
Niagara Gorge?
See what we did there?

We grew up fast and got married.

So spiffy!
And not always serious.
And look at how earnest!

A fledgling family,
we crossed land and sea

I should bring back that haircut.

We came back different people,
to a different-feeling world.

But you still kept your necklace

Even when certain things broke apart,
we never did.
We never even came close.

Part of my spiritual crisis included this regretful hairdo

I love being with you.

Partly because we look quite good together

I love how we keep changing

and how we always seem to be changing
into people
in love

Love you Ruth. Happy 15th!

Unaltering Love–Happy Birthday Ruth

Sonnet 116 William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
admit impediments.

They say that you tend to be with someone similar to yourself. I suppose it’s true most of the time. We’re pretty narcissistic people, so we seek ourselves in the people we love.

                     Love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds,
or bends with the remover to remove:

They say unless two agree, they cannot walk together. And that if they start to disagree, they probably are going to have to go off in different directions. Alteration, they imply, alters love.

O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
that looks on tempests and is never shaken;

Ruth and I have changed. A lot. I’m not the person she married. I have different goals, different convictions, a different sense of morality. Different ways to love.

It is the star to every wandering bark,
who's worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

We change each other and change by each other’s changes. Our love isn’t based on our personality traits. The thing that holds us together is not ourselves. It’s a kind of transcendent love.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
within his bending sickle's compass come;

For about 123 days of the summer, Ruth and I are the same age. Tomorrow she’s older than me again. We’re in the midst of so much change, but we still love.

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

It does not matter how much we grow. It doesn’t matter how much we change. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t the people we married. Love that alters with alteration is not our kind of love.

If this be error, and upon me prov'd
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Happy birthday Ruth. I love you forever.

Ruth! It’s your birthday!

I married you when you were 23. At this point we’ve been together for about a third of our lives. That’s kinda wild.

Do you remember when we were first married and people were telling us about how much it was going to suck? Someone, I don’t remember who, said just watch out, because people change. I was scared, I’ll admit. I was rather pleased with the wife I’d found and didn’t like the idea of you changing.

But here’s what people didn’t tell me: Change is good. Our life together has changed the both of us, not just every birthday but every day, every conversation. And I love the ways that you have changed. I love the people you have been over these crazy thirteen years. I am full of excitement thinking about the changes we’ll experience over the next thirteen years and the thirteen years after that.

All this is to say, Happy Birthday, Ruth. I love you more than you know, and I love everything you’ve become and everything you’ll be.

See you tonight.


Ten Years of Marriage

I wonder what I’m supposed to write about. What I’ve learned?

As if that’s what marriage is for—learning things.

That’s not to say I haven’t learned anything.

I’ve learned how to listen. I’ve learned how to own different points of view. I’ve learned the awesome power of forgiveness, mindfulness, and red wine. I’ve learned tons of shit.

If there were a test at the end of this marriage, I’d ace it.

I love tests.

But marriage isn’t about learning.

Should I write a defense of marriage?

That’d be fashionable.

But why?

There’s nothing good in marriage itself.

It’s where good and bad can find a place.

I found good. Lots of people don’t.

Marriage isn’t a thing that needs defending.

Heck, it isn’t a thing at all. It’s a convention. A label. Something we made up.

It’s a life-long club for two people.

Most exclusive club around. Our home is our clubhouse. We get to pick all the rules. We do awesome projects, like growing children into existence and perfecting the Nacho. Membership benefits include coronary love, soul-tickling intimacy, raucous sex.

And a friend who won’t quit on me.

No matter how much I change. No matter how much she changes.

So I don’t know what I should blog about on our anniversary.

But ten years ago I stood, pale and shaking, in front of nearly everyone I knew and I made a deal to be Ruth’s live-together, bonk-together, stay-together-until-death-do-us-part friend.

I had no idea what I was in for.

Ten years later, I still have no idea what I’m in for.

Hey Ruth, It’s been fun so far. Wanna keep it up until we die? I’m in if you are.

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.