Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Category: Hey Ruth

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.

Hey Ruth, I didn’t get anything done.

I had it all prepared, though. I had a mental list of all the things that needed to get done today. I decided to rush off to University right after dropping Asha at school. I’d get there more than an hour before my first class. Tons of time to get things done.

I had to make breakfast quickly. Then Asha woke up wet, so she needed a bath and the sheets needed to be changed. Then we seemed to lose one of each and every glove in the house (now she’s wearing a red mitten on one hand and a black glove on the other). We were almost late to school. But I kept my plan to get things done intact. I went straight to the subway station and squeezed into a train. I hadn’t seen them this crowded in ages. I felt close to you then, thinking about how squished the buses and vans in Pakistan are.  But finally I made it. I found an empty library and fell into a chair. I had plenty of time still.

Good looking fellow, eh?

But in the tyranny of getting things done, I wrecked myself. I sat in the library with an exhausted and scattered mind. I got sick like you know I sometimes do when I overdo things. I could have pushed myself a little more, but it would have made me miserable and it would have made the work shitty.

What irrational things I do in order to get things done! As if getting things done was the purpose of my birth. As if I could ever get anything done. There will always be another book to write, another essay to draft, another text to read. There is no end to the things I have to get done. So why go crazy over it? Why sully my life with stress?

I gave up and bought a coffee. Then I remembered that I’m not here to get things done. I’m not really here for anything. I’m just here. And since I’m here, I might as well do.

It was easier after that. Because instead of trying to get it all done, I just spent what time I had doing. It’s not the end of the work that I’m after (that will never come). I’m just enjoying the doing of it. So I opened up my Michel de Montaigne text and this lovely passage noticed me:

I want Death to find me planting my cabbages, neither worrying about it nor the unfinished gardening.

Have a fourth day that does without worrying about getting it done, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

Hey Ruth, I registered the kids for swimming

It’s neat being alone with a single child. You know the pulsating mass of primal energy that we are accustomed to: ChildrenChildren are hard to deal with. Impossible to control. Kinda crazy. Most folks figure there’s one way to deal with children: Control. Correct. Coerce.

But now it’s really quiet. And instead of a mass of children, I see Asha. And since the the backdrop of chaos is gone, I can look into her eyes when she speaks to me. And I can see that she really her own person, distinct and independent from me. A person with internal, unspoken thoughts and desires and urges.

I think there’s only one way to deal with a person, and it has nothing to do with control. The golden rule still cannot be beat: Do as you’d be done by. Asha (and Joe and Dev) is a thoughtful, willful, powerfully complex person. If I were that kind of person, I’d want the people I lived with to look at me. To treat me like a peer–a fellow sentient being stumbling through existence. I’d want the people in my house to listen when I spoke, and to speak with me in return. I’d want to feel included and accepted and I’d want to have the freedom to withdraw when I chose. I’d want a place where I didn’t have to feel ashamed for the things I thought and felt. And I’d want those who’s been around longer than I to let me in on whatever they’d figured out so far.

I’m preaching to the choir, of course. In the midst of children, you are the one who remembers they are people–peers. And I’m so glad that you do. It’s a little crazy to treat children like peers. But, in the words of Michel de Montaigne:

A man must be a little mad if he does not want to be even more stupid.

Have a child-like third day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

Hey Ruth, I guess you’ve arrived.

Must have been a long flight, eh? It’ll be worth it. And even if the trip over was really bad, I bet you earned a couple cool stories, at least.

Avatar1Asha and I had a good day. You know that Golden Avatar record I love that everyone else hates? It turns out Asha loves it, too. And without the baby to worry about, we can crank the volume pretty loud. I hope the neighbours don’t mind 70s Jazz Rock / Fusion.

It’s about 5:30am in Karachi. I hope you and Joe and Dev are asleep. I hope it’s a great sleep that drains away the stress of travel. I think travel mostly feels like a burden when we’re obsessed with the place we’re getting to. We forget that wherever we are is a pretty good place.

There’s a long drive ahead of you when you wake up. I bet it’ll be a crowded one, too. I remember going down that long highway between Karachi and the Interior. I always wanted to stop the car and get out for a little walk in the wide and rocky emptiness. But we were so concerned with getting to point B that we figured nothing along the way would be interesting.

You’ve got a lot of wonderful plans for wonderful things to see while you’re there. I hope you don’t forget that there are wonderful things to see no matter where you are. On a highway to Hyderabad. In a slummy hostel in Saddar. Everywhere you look.

I have arrived–I am home.

My destination is in each step.

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

Hey Ruth

Hey Ruth.

It felt weird right when you and the boys slipped out of sight in the terminal. I looked down at Asha and she looked up at me. She felt it to. We decided the best way to deal with the weirdness was to go home and play video games. I might have fed her chips for dinner. But we had rice for desert, so that balances things out.

The house was quiet when she went to bed. No sounds except the humming of the heater. And the cars going up and down Bloor. And the karaoke party next door. Very quiet for Toronto. I’d be sitting on the floor talking with you right now, if you were here. I’m trying to think of what we’d be talking about. Or would we be finally beating Act II in Diablo? Or sipping wine to scratchy vinyls? Or furiously doing dishes and making lunches for tomorrow so we can collapse in bed sometime before midnight? Whatever we’d be doing, it would have been fun, eh?

I bet you’re beat right now. Urdu meh suffar hai, aur angrezi meh bhi suffer hai, na? Someone at the karaoke party just started belting out A Whole New World. I like the part where Jasmine is getting overwhelmed with the magic carpet right and Aladdin says,

Don’t you dare close your eyes.

Hold your breath, it gets better.

Have a strong first day of your trip, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.