Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: contentment

Anything is ever enough

When did breathing in and out become not enough?

After you’d breathed for a while and it bored you. Then you became hungry.

And when did eating and drinking become not enough?

After you’d had your fill and food bored you. Then you grew cold.

And when did a roof over my head and blankets on my bed become not enough?

After you’d lived in your house a while, and from a warm room watched the snow fall until it bored you. Then you were restless.

And then nothing was ever enough.

Until you decide to be done with boredom.

Then anything will be enough.

Can’t Save the Game

I was starting up the nightly Minecraft game. I flicked through the options and asked which texture pack we should use. Asha asked for the Plastic pack.

“Can’t use that one,” I told her.
“Why not?”
“It’s just a trial pack. We won’t be able to save what we build.”
“I don’t care.”
“But anything you make will be gone when we exit. Forever.”
“That’s okay,” she said. She was willing to spend her unredeemable time building something awesome, and then walk away and let it cease to exist. It reminded me of a couplet from the Bhagavad Gita:

You have the right to work,
but never to the fruit of work.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

At the end of the day, though, that’s just how it is. And not just in the obvious sense—that often we work really hard for something we don’t get. That’s how it is in a bigger sense.

I want my life to matter. We all do, I bet. We work hard to matter. We draw attention to ourselves and train long hours and take crappy jobs to make our mark. But no mark we can make will last. A billion years from now, nothing that I have done will remain anywhere at all. I build my castles, but when it’s time to quit, I cannot save the game. Seems depressing, eh?I-have-arrived-I-am-home

But not to Asha. She isn’t concerned about the fruit—saving the game. No, the game is in the building. She hasn’t learned that she’s supposed to suffer and strive and sacrifice today for a tomorrow that never seems to come.

I hope she never does.

Idea Wisps

smoky wispsThey come to me all the time. I bet they come to you, too. Washing dishes, on the bike, cooking. A few magical wisps of a scene appear. A few exceptionally clever lines. An original plot that just begs to be allowed to grow.

I hold it in my head as hard as I dare while finishing the dishes—I’ll crush it if I crumple it too hard. And it seems intact when it’s done. Until I try to type it out.

I can’t seem to lead into it. It’s just a wisp or a few lines or a general plot. It has no context. No place to attach itself. Like a single atom, which cannot exist unless bonded with something else.

So I shake my head and smile as the wisp floats away. I don’t begrudge its uselessness. It was fun to think about. Fun to chew over. And I’ve also noticed that when the wisps are breezed away on the wind, they leave a scent that never seems to go away.

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.

Memorizing Mondays: O Me! O Life! by Walt Whitman

Oh me!  Oh life!  of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring–What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here–that life exists and identify,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Tragedy of a Satisfied Soul

     I’m happy with the things I’ve done. I’m happy with my first novel. But, reading it over, I found I was not satisfied. I had to write another. So I did. And I am happy with it. Much happier than I was with my first. But still not satisfied. So now I’m a third of the way through my third novel. I like it. I’m happy. But I won’t be satisfied. Oh no. Never.

     Satisfaction kills art. I wonder if that’s why Prometheus and the Star Wars prequels could come from such great minds yet be such disappointments. I wonder if Mr. Scott and Mr. Lucas looked back on their amazing accomplishments and thought, “Well, I’m obviously great. No need to push myself on these new films. They’ll be great, too.”

     I love my most recent novel. It’s precious to me. Just like my daughter was precious to me when she was first learning to talk. I was happy that she was experimenting with words and I smiled when she said things like “I ate-ed my food.” Happy. But not even close to satisfied.

     You see, if she were to talk like that for the rest of her life, some of my happiness would fade. She wouldn’t be reaching her potential. She wouldn’t be expanding her potential. She wouldn’t be living the fullest life she can live. So I encouraged her to push herself. To learn more. To express herself more. To be who she really is.

     I’m happy with my work. I’m happy with the levels of love that I’m pumping into the world. I’m happy with my spiritual life. But not satisfied. Not even close.

Because I have no idea how strong my love is.
Because I have no idea how powerful my spirit is.
Because I have no idea what wonderful things I can create.
And until I see these things born in their full glory, I’ll always be reaching.
Always be pushing.
Always be groaning.
Always be shunning the tragedy of the satisfied soul.