Please welcome today’s guest writer, Christian Becker. Christian is a Calvin alum who graduated in 2015 with a degree in film & media communications. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, currently, but most of his work takes place right across the river in New York City. TV shows Christian has worked on include The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Billy on the Street, The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, and most recently Desus & Mero on Showtime.
Have you ever had an experience where something you purchased didn’t end up working the way you wanted it to, yet because of the interesting outcome you aren’t even mad about it? That usually ends up happening to me. Mainly because I just don’t know how certain things work and reading instructions is hard sometimes. This happened to me recently in the form of an app called “Calm.”
If you are unfamiliar with the Calm app, it gives you a library of nature sounds, guys playing acoustic guitars and meditation exercises to fall asleep to. To be fair, I haven’t explored many of these options, but one in particular caught my eye and I think it’s important you all know about it. In their “sleep stories” section, the app has a bedtime story narrated by Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey. Say what you will about the man, but he has a soothing voice that I thought for sure could put me in a state of relaxation. In a way, it did, but I was also just wide awake in awe of the contents of the story.
The story itself is written by Chris Advansum and is called “Wonder.” Because I alone would not be able to do justice describing this bonkers tale, I’ll just tell you exactly what Calm’s synopsis is. “Join Matthew McConaughey for a dreamy story about the mysteries of the universe, in a heartfelt tale full of magic and wonder.” If that doesn’t make you want to slip on your slippers and slide right underneath your comforter from Bed, Bath & Beyond then I don’t know what would.
Mr. McConaughey begins the story with a little introduction that he takes as an opportunity to name drop some cool people he got to work with while making the 1997 film Contact. It isn’t a brag per say, but talking about how cool it was to work alongside Robert Zemeckis, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking is a bizarre way to begin a bedtime story. I thought for sure he would ride off onto a tangent about what it was like filming ninety percent of Failure to Launch without a shirt on, but he surprisingly did not.
After a couple minutes of innocent rambling about how Contact opened his eyes to the wonders of the universe, the story begins, and we are introduced to a character named Zoey. Zoey is a young girl with a wide imagination who spends an evening with her grandfather looking through a telescope. But before we get to that, McConaughey spends a full minute listing every item in her room in full, specific detail. What color were the thumbtacks that hold up her drawings? Purple. You know how I know that? Because Matthew told me, of course. Zoey also had picture books, dinosaur figurines and a papier-mâché giraffe. Normally I wouldn’t care about such insignificant details in a story about the vast scope of the universe, but the way Matthew McConaughey speaks of them with his suave, southern voice makes me wish he would go on and on about the items in every other room of the house. I could hear him list things off for hours, which, fortunately for me, was what the rest of the story consisted of.
Zoey goes outside and finds her grandpa using his telescope at the end of their dock to stare up at the stars, so she goes to join him. This is where things get really exciting. If you thought you’d be sleeping, think again. Zoey’s grandpa explains to her that so much is happening in this very moment all around them that they don’t even realize. This gives McConaughey an opportunity to use his God-given talent in describing any and all things that might pop into one’s head. These things include, “clouds converging and clearing,” “storms looming,” “a falcon gliding at great heights,” “a butterfly emerging from a cocoon,” “a moose waiting in the marsh,” “lush landscapes full of roots and trunks,” “a boy blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.” I could go on and on, but my written words wouldn’t do it justice.
I got to sleep eventually. But not during this story. His voice was just so captivating and I laid there wondering what all he would list off next. In the morning, I thought about how funny it was that a story designed to put people to sleep only kept me awake based on how hooked I was by the narrator, but in the moment, I didn’t care. I was happy to have heard it and think about it frequently, even if it didn’t serve the purpose it was made for.