Are You There, God? It's Me, Arnold Cohen-Chang

Dear God,

Approximately two months ago, Tuesday November 9th, 2004, I had a really bad anxiety attack from watching the movie "Donnie Darko" on DVD. Since You're omnipotent, I'm assuming that You've seen it.

But in case You haven't, the main character in the movie, Donnie Darko, goes back in time through a worm hole and gives up his own life to save the life of a girl who he never would have met because he went back in time. He erased himself.

When I was lying in bed that night, lots of thoughts kept running through my head. And I started thinking that when you die, you just stop existing. You get erased. And everything that you did, everything you've done, everything that you are gets erased too.

I started sweating profusely and I couldn't sleep at all. I tried doing the exercise that Dr. Koss taught me where you picture yourself at the bottom of the ocean and let all your troubles swim away from you like fish, but it didn't help.

So I didn't sleep at all that night, and the next morning I got so cranky at the MLC I threw a model of a protein molecule at Jenny Grath and hit her in the forehead. Then I got sent to Professor Stamp's office even though I apologized, and he made me write an essay on non-violence. By the way, Professor Stamp is a real asshole. Why did You make him like that?

I got really stomach-sick after school and Mom got really worried that my ulcer was making a come back. She made me some Gazpacho and after I ate it I felt better. I barely got any sleep that night either, but it was OK because the next day I had university classes instead of having to go to the MLC. I like university classes because I can eat tacos at lunch instead of the food at the MLC, most of which is really crappy. Why do smart people always want to eat really crappy tasting food?

While I was walking to Physics 269A with Ramon I saw this old guy sitting on Bruin Walk with this sign that read:


I asked Ramon what that meant, and he said that there's this big debate over whether You exist or not, and that some people that believe in You think that it's obvious You exist because You created the universe and we all live in it and it's all around us.

Then I pointed out to Ramon that that isn't proof of Your existence because we all know about The Big Bang and we can measure the light from it in microwaves so we know that it happened. But then Ramon said that that doesn't mean that You weren't involved in the Big Bang, and that all the things about physics that we have discovered (like wave-particle duality and sub-atomic particles) could just be things that You invented to make the universe work. Like the gears that a watchmaker puts into a clock. And then he said that even Einstein said that You don't play dice with the universe, which means that You have a plan and You never leave anything to chance.

Ramon is really smart. I'm surprised that he didn't go to a place like the MLC when he was a kid. He's also really cool. He talks to me like I'm a real person and not a student or a kid.

So those anxiety attacks kept happening at night, every time I tried to go to sleep. My stomach got worse and I kept having to get out of bed to poop.

But then I started thinking that if You actually exist, then maybe when I die I won't get erased, and that something else might happen instead. Like maybe You have a plan.

That made me feel a little better.

I asked Zooey about that, and she said that some people think that when you die you get re-incarnated into something else based on what you did when you were alive. Like if you were a crappy person, you get re-incarnated as a beetle or a frog or something, and if you were a good person, you get re-incarnated into someone even better.

I asked her what she meant by that. For instance, if you were smart, do you get re-incarnated into someone even smarter than you were in your old life? And she said maybe, or maybe if you were good you then you got re-incarnated into someone really cool in your next life. Like, maybe Brad Pitt was a really cool person in his previous life, and that's why he got re-incarnated as Brad Pitt.

Zooey says some really dumb things sometimes. It's weird how she went to the MLC when she was a kid and Ramon didn't. But then again, going to the MLC doesn't necessarily mean that you're smart - it just means that they can't send you to regular school and they've got nowhere else to put you.

And just because you work at the MLC doesn't mean that you're smart either. Zooey has a boyfriend named Hank who drives a BMW Z4. I think that he's a prick. His license plate says "LOOKR" instead of something normal like "5TRK951". That's Brian Yamagashi's Mom's Volvo's license plate.

So I started doing research about You. One afternoon I read the Bible. It was OK, though there were way too many characters. One thing I really liked was when it said that when a person is given a lot, a lot is expected from them. It's like what Uncle Ben said in my favorite movie of all time, Spider Man: "With great power comes great responsibility."

At dinner I asked Mom about You without mentioning the anxiety attacks. (To tell you the truth, I didn't want her to know because I didn't want to have to go back to sessions with Dr. Koss. That would cut into my Internet time.)

She got really upset and said that You don't exist and if You do then You don't do anything for anybody, especially those poor people that got swept up by the tsunami and became homeless and all those babies that drowned. She also said that humanity has evolved beyond the point of requiring belief in higher powers and that religion is the opiate of the masses. Anything that Mom doesn't like is the opiate of the masses. This includes everything on TV except for the Charlie Rose Show.

After dinner Dad said that although a lot of people need You, some people don't. And since Mom is a paleontologist and is always digging up proof that You don't exist, it's obvious why she believes what she does. But I didn't think she needed to get so upset about it.

So then I asked Dad about You and he said that the Chinese used to have a lot of Gods, but now they only have one: Money. Then he laughed, so I think that he meant that as a joke. I'm not sure. Dad is kind of weird sometimes. I think it's because he's Chinese.

On January 2nd, 2005 Grandpa took me to see "Meet the Fockers". I wanted to see "The Incredibles" instead but I let Grandpa choose because he's old and he likes dumb movies.

I told him I was still getting these anxiety attacks and I told him why, and he got really concerned. He said that it was a shame that Mom wouldn't even let us celebrate Hanukah. He asked if I even knew what Hanukah was and I said that it was the Festival of Lights. I told him I knew that because it was in an Adam Sandler song.

Then Grandpa said, "That's it, God dammit," and vowed to take me to Synagogue so I could at least see what it was all about. We told Mom that we were going to the California Science Center so she wouldn't get upset.

Synagogue was really cool. I liked it a lot. I thought it might be boring or cheesy, but it made me feel really sort of peaceful. I wore Grandpa's old yarmulke. Everyone sang together, and even though I didn't know the words I used the Watermelon Trick. That's where if you don't know the words to a song you just sing the word "watermelon" over and over and it looks like you do. Zooey taught me that. She can be pretty cool sometimes.

Afterwards I met Rabbi Dan. He was really cool. I think he's Ramon and Zooey's age, though he could be older. Grandpa introduced me as his grandson Arnold, which I like much better than when Mom introduces me to people and immediately tells them that I go to McKenna Learning Center and I take classes at UCLA even though I'm 12. That can be really embarrassing because then they expect a lot out of me even though I don't have much yet.

So we sat down and talked to Rabbi Dan for a while and he told me all sorts of cool things, like how the Jews have been around as long as the Chinese have, and both of them have these really interesting histories. Then he gave me a book that I read that night, and said that I could come back and talk to him whenever I wanted. I asked him about what happens when you die, and he said that you get resurrected, and you live again. Which is kind of like what Zooey said, except that you're you and you don't become a frog or Brad Pitt.

That made me feel better. I like Judaism. It's pretty cool.

I've been to Synagogue three more times so far. Mom thinks I just really like going to the Science Center. It's going to be hard to keep her from finding out the truth once the Bodyworlds exhibit closes.

So now I have this really tough decision to make, which is whether to start taking classes so I can recite the aliyah, which is a blessing from the Torah, at my Bar Mitzvah. Or if I'm even going to have a Bar Mitzvah. I know that Dad would be OK with it, but I think Mom would get really upset.

I don't know how long the classes are going to take - I told Rabbi Dan that I could just memorize whatever the aliyah is and we can do this thing next week so Mom won't even get a chance to find out, but he says that the studying is more important than the memorization. I'm not sure what that means.

I have a feeling that these classes are going cut into my Internet, but that's OK since my anxiety attacks have almost stopped now. Plus the Bar Mitzvah is when I become a man, which would be pretty cool because then maybe Dad will remove the ParentLock from my web browser. Brian Yamagashi's iMac doesn't have ParentLock, and he can look at webpages of women's vaginas.

So now what I need from You is a sign. Something out of the ordinary that doesn't happen every day so I know it's You. A miracle or something. I need You to have Professor Stamp accidentally say the F-Word on the P.A. or Zooey to break up with her dumb boyfriend. I need You to tell Mom to let us finally buy a TV so Dad and I can watch Star Trek: Enterprise or Battlestar Galactica. I need some kind of sign that You're there so I know I'm doing the right thing.

That would be really awesome.

Sincerely, your friend,

Arnold Cohen-Chang

Copyright 2003, 2004