Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: zen

What Martha and the thief missed

It’s fun that Jesus uses plain, simple speech. He generally leaves the sophisticated arguments to others. Simple and hard–some nearly too hard.

Give to the one who begs of you
If forced to go one mile, go two
If you are sued for your shirt, give up your coat, too.
If someone breaks in a tries to steal your TV, make sure they take the right remote with it.

This all seems too radical to pull off. I know a lot of people who say Jesus never really meant it the way it seems like he said it—that’s how heavy it is. Like ideals made for another world.
One day Jesus was visiting Martha and Mary. Mary hung out with him while Martha cooked and cleaned and played the proper host. It was a lot of work. Martha tried to get Jesus to tell Mary to help. Reasonable. Lots of work to be done.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed, or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better.”

Soto monk and hermit Ryokan (1758-1831) was a strange one. One night he came home to discover a thief—even though there was nothing in his tiny hut to steal. Ryokan didn’t feel right about sending a guest away empty-handed, so he gave the thief the clothes he was wearing. Meditating later, naked in his empty hut, he looked up at the night sky and wrote a haiku.

The thief left it behind:
The moon
At my window.

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, 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.

My Journey #5 – Not all who wander are lost.

I guess that nearly leads us to the present, in wide, sweeping brush-strokes. There was no way to tell the whole complex story, but I told enough to be comfortable with.

I also feel comfortable enough to share hints about where I seem to be right now. Not because people will understand and accept it, but because I don’t feel like I need understanding or acceptance. And, man, it feels awesome to no longer need those things.

I’ve gotten some private feedback from people wondering what I’ve replaced Christianity with. The short answer is nothing. I have not found, nor looked for, anything to replace the all-pervasive hold that Christianity had on my life.


That being said, I’m into Zen, which is as much a surprise to me as it is to anyone else.  I don’t actually have anything to say about it right now.  I used to think it was a silly empty thing. And it totally is, but not in the way I thought. If you look into Zen you’ll probably get frustrated by the cryptic one-liners the old Zen masters liked to throw around.  Don’t be too hard on them.  Zen can’t be expressed without either sounding ridiculous or completely misrepresenting it. Much like the best parts of Christianity (1 Cor. 1:23).

People will say I’m wandering. And I am. I totally am. But that doesn’t make me lost, despite what my friends may say. I can’t say where I am or where I’m going, but I love this journey. And I’m always home. My destination is in each step.

I love you.
And I bet you love me, too.

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.