The Matchbook Diaries


In my guest powder room I have a sign I handpainted.  I got this tin pig cut-out for free someplace, so I covered it in pink roses, and along the top I wrote one of my favourite lines of all time, “One charming motherfucking pig.”

When we moved from the richest country in the world, Qatar, to one of the poorest, Tanzania, we cut our household income in half.  My husband really wanted to work for one of the top academic schools in the IB, and that school was at the very top of the IB world.  He had been in management in Qatar, and as such we’d been quartered in a management compound in an enormous villa.  Mornings I drove my son to the Emir’s private school, which is on a monumental campus that housed the royal collection of Arabian stallions.  As we pulled up to the front of the elementary school daily, we queued, us in a used white Bronco, behind local kids, each Rolls Royce slowing down to let a kid hop out, followed by a nanny holding the back pack and lunch kit, until it was our turn.  My son would get out alone, kiss our dog goodbye, and trot off to class.  Part of the gigantic compensation for us there had been a SUV for my husband that had televisions in the back of the headrests.  Our son, who was little then, used to watch Tom and Jerry cartoons whilst we drove out into the desert to play on the magnificent sand dunes in Qatar.

Before we got to Dar Es Salaam, we pre-purchased a crappy little car.  It worked beautifully and in no way called attention to us, making us slightly less of a target for bandits and cops seeking bribes.  The first time we settled our son into his new back seat he sighed and said, “Dad, I really need you to be much more important.”

Important is not a feeling.  It’s a given.  I am not important because of what I do or do not do.  I’m important because I’m a child of God.  My enemies, including my mother and Hitler, were also children of God.  Maybe those two people chose not to acknowledge their position, but their rejection of God in no way changed their actual position. Of course now, after death, both of those individuals are living with the master they chose. Can’t say I pity them.

There is no way to arbitrate what is important.  Quentin Tarantino has said that he spent his whole childhood watching television; now he makes really, really brilliant philosophical films.  What a person does influences their own personal satisfaction, but no action prompts or promotes importance.  The literal act of saving a life is no more weighty than the act of lying around on the couch smoking pot.  We lack the perspective to analyze what the person doing each of these things is getting out of it.  The hero and the relaxed person are equally important to God, and there is no way to judge either scenario.  Tarantino’s characters talk about this same idea in Pulp Fiction:

Vincent: Want some bacon?

Jules: No man, I don’t eat pork.

Vincent: Are you Jewish?

Jules: Nah, I ain’t Jewish, I just don’t dig on swine, that’s all.

Vincent: Why not?

Jules: Pigs are filthy animals. I don’t eat filthy animals.

Vincent: Bacon tastes gooood. Pork chops taste gooood.

Jules: Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know ’cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy motherfucker. Pigs sleep and root in shit. That’s a filthy animal. I ain’t eat nothin’ that ain’t got enough sense enough to disregard its own feces.

Vincent: How about a dog? Dogs eats its own feces.

Jules: I don’t eat dog either.

Vincent: Yeah, but do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?

Jules: I wouldn’t go so far as to call a dog filthy but they’re definitely dirty. But, a dog’s got personality. Personality goes a long way.

Vincent: Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal. Is that true?

Jules: Well we’d have to be talkin’ about one charmin’ motherfuckin’ pig. I mean he’d have to be ten times more charmin’ than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I’m sayin’?

On my crap days, when I’m mean and selfish, I have to remember that God thinks I’m a charming, motherfucking pig, which, my being Jewish and all, goes a long way towards saying God loves me whether I’m an asshole or an angel.

If people only knew this, they might relax a little, and stop pushing themselves so hard to prove whatever it is they are trying to prove.  What would life look like if, instead of trying to feel important by earning it, people woke up knowing that they were unjustifiably, unequivocally beloved, and could, in their lovely position, spend their day doing exactly what their hearts inspired?  Importance is an unearned and unassailable gift for every child of God.  There’s not some absurd balance going on with God smirking as the scale tips and you go skidding down because you just did some shitty thing or, equally ridiculous, God clapping as you save a vulnerable slug from the center of the sidewalk.  We cannot improve our position.   We are already at the pinnacle.  There’s a lot of liberty and power knowing this truth.