The first time I went to bed with Matthew McConaughey, I can’t say I was expecting much.
I know from insomnia. I can’t begin to count the nights I’ve spent watching the clock into the wee hours, thinking about paint colors or the dystopian impact of smartphone addiction. I’ve tried all the usual things: prescriptions, over the counter, under the counter. I’ve tried reading Proust and practicing sleepy-time yoga. I’ve cut out caffeine and added magnesium. But you know what works? Listening to a Hollywood actor who once stared down a bull in a Lincoln commercial recite a story about the wonders of our galaxy.
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I discovered the Calm app while looking for tools to help my daughter sleep. The app features stories with names like “All Aboard the Flying Scotsman” and “The Ancient Way of Tea” (riveting, right?), read by actors, including a handful of celebs. There are some I recommend purely for their extreme coziness (“Blue Gold” by Stephen Fry, about lavender fields in the south of France) and others I‘d recommend avoiding unless you enjoy the sensation of a stranger blowing softly on the nape of your neck (anything by the ASMR practitioner who goes by “The French Whisperer”).
But the Calm story that puts me to sleep every single time is called “Wonder,” written by Chris Advansun and channeled for your somnolent listening pleasure by Matthew McConaughey. As in, the actor from True Detective and Magic Mike. As in, the shirtless guy on the beach. As in, “Alright alright alright.”
McConaughey’s “Well, hello there” has become my Pavlovian cue to fade to black.
I’m not sure what compelled me to click on “Wonder” the first time. It may have been the thumbnail image, showing a black-and-white photo of McConaughey in a shirt and tie, looking uncharacteristically well-groomed, his hair slicked back like a high-end realtor. At first, I was skeptical, largely because he kicks things off with such personal and on-brand musings as “How often do we ponder the depth of the present moment?” and a humblebrag about the legendary physicists he’s had the good fortune to meet as a famous movie star.
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But there are two things that make “Wonder” the ultimate insomnia buster. First, as you might have guessed: the voice. The smooth drawl, the sybillant “s,” the unmistakable pronunciation of “CON-stellations.” Maybe the word is mellifluous? Regardless, the effect is seriously hypnotic. McConaughey’s “Well, hello there” has become my Pavlovian cue to fade to black.
The other thing is the story itself. “Wonder” is a painfully home-spun tale about a little girl and her star-gazing gramps, rocking on a porch swing and staring up at the night sky while he enumerates to her the wonders of the universe — things occurring right now, in this very moment. There are falcons gliding, starfish wading, waterfalls gushing, meteors colliding and comets roaming the far-reaches of the solar system. The effect makes you feel so small, so utterly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, that your speck-sized anxieties seem to evaporate into the unknown depths of the cosmos. And then, sleep.
Access to Matthew McConaughey’s magical portal to dreamland is not free, but it’s the best $6 I spend every damn month. Alright alright al … zzz.