Who/What Am I?

So. Here I am. Again. Where is “here”? Who is “I”? “I” am apparently some relatively intelligent ape (relative in terms of other life on this planet, although I think dolphins and whales are relatively intelligent as well (among other beings)). Also, relatively in terms of other apes on this planet. Is that the “here”? -a water-covered rock orbiting an insignificant star in a galaxy among potentially trillions of other galaxies? “Again”? In terms of blogging? Sitting in front of my laptop? Being human? Having this sensational experience? I am unsure of how many times I have actually performed any and all of those. I have a first-person perspective of my fingers tapping out the letters to this blog post. Who is moving the fingers? Who is tapping the keys? Am I in control of this action? Who is “I” again?

Often times I look in the mirror and I see “myself”. I see the familiar features and the familiar expressions. I see the hazel eyes that seem to change color with my mood and what I’m wearing. I see my broken nose and deviated septum. I see how I have aged. I see all of it. That’s who “I” am. Right? That is “me”. The ape. The intelligent ape on this water-covered rock. Okay. That’s fine. I’ll accept that. But, what am I doing here? What is my purpose? Why do “I” exist? Millions of years of evolution…following countless eons of matter (mostly dark) and energy (mostly dark) colliding and combining (apparently the stars, planets, and galaxies that can be seen make up only 4 percent of the known universe and the other 96 percent is made of stuff astronomers can’t see, detect, or even comprehend) to produce…me. And all of you. Okay. But, for what? To experience and learn from each other? Maybe. Maybe not.

If the known universe is mostly unknown to our sensory experience…am “I” too, unknown to myself? Can I “see” or “know” myself in my basest form? Just as astronomers cannot truly experience the cosmos for what it is, am I not a microcosm of the incomprehensible fabric from which I have sprung? Are we universal anomalies? Cosmic accidents? I mean, if you look around at the state of the globe, it makes sense as to why we may deem ourselves as accidents. What a terrible mess we have made of our planet. In the name of what? Status? Economic fame? Fame in general? Recognition? – superficial symbols that are socially constructed to begin with. What good is money when it can’t buy a functioning ecological system? What good is space travel when species are going extinct at an unprecedented rate? What good is fame when there is no clean water to drink? What good is status when it is too hot to venture outdoors? What a comical mess we have made of things here. And for what? So other “intelligent” apes will validate who “we” are and what we are doing? Disturbing at best.

The other notion that crosses my mind is solipsism. Solipsism, for those of you who don’t know, is the concept that the “self” is all that can be known to exist. All of the aforementioned concepts are constructs of my own doing. All of it. The universe. Time. Space. Self. Travel. Species. Intelligence. All of it. It is my own subjective experience and all of you reading this are as well. Bizarre. I know. I can’t truly convince myself otherwise, however, for the sake of my own mental well-being, and likely for the sake of all of you, I will refrain from crawling down that rabbit hole. Let’s just say that at the very least, all of you are experiencing your own version of solipsism…funny to think about, I know. All of you intelligent apes could think that you are the center of the universe, and no intelligent ape (or higher power of your own construction) could prove you otherwise. Comical at best.

“Consciousness just ‘is’…” I heard that from a well-known guru recently. Profound. But, also, how commonly apathetic. Okay. Awesome. This (this whole experience) just “is”. It is like the air we breathe. It is inescapable. We need not think about it because we cannot contextualize our experience without it to begin with. All of our thinking/intelligence etc. is ineffective because of well, in my opinion, technically solipsism. Lol. Also comical. But, in all due respect…aren’t all answers for our existential questions? What a terrible bore this life would be if we knew all of the answers. I can only hope that we know very little…and even at the end, we are only given enough of a sliver of information to continue our infinite journey (if our journey is actually infinite, if we need “information”, or if we are actually on a “journey” to begin with). No answers. Only questions. As of now, this experience is rather nice. Sensations are an incredible thing. If this post is making you feel down (and even if it’s not) take a second to realize all of the events and people that must have existed in order for you to come across this post. It is the most incredible thing you have ever experienced…I say this because the past may not actually exist…and neither may the future. But, thank you for joining me. I hope all is well.

Memorial

I recently attended my late uncle’s memorial service. He was 63 years old. My uncle worked hard his whole life, raised a family, and had many hobbies. At the end of 63 years, a brief memorial service was held, a slideshow of good times was presented, and his workplace (the FBI) sent a bouquet. His life was encapsulated in those signs of honor, affection, and memorial. And that was it. Not that the service lacked significance or meaning, it was just bizarre to me that an entire lifetime could be bundled into such a neat little package. He will live on in our lives only as a memory from this point forward. That is both fascinating and a little scary to me.

We are only here for a short time. At the end of it, we will live on only as a memory in the lives of those whom we have left an impression. And on a long enough time scale, even the memories will fade into obliteration. This provides relief in terms of nullifying the need to take life too seriously, but also makes me teeter on the verge of not taking it seriously at all. Do I need to take it seriously? Do any of us? “Seriously” is a relative term I suppose. On the one hand the memorial service made me want to squeeze out every last drop of the time I have left, and on the other hand it made me want to take a step back, recenter, and focus on the present. Wouldn’t forcing the issue only make time go by more quickly and disallow us from being fully present as we focus on leapfrogging from one experience to the next? I suppose a balance is needed.

Take things seriously that require a serious approach. Treat everything else with a lantern (rather than a laser) consciousness and immerse yourself in the experience. Notice all of the subtle nuances; all of the sounds, tastes, textures, sights, and smells. Be fully present. Because in the end, the present is all we have. Our linear view of life due to the unrelenting direction of the “arrow of time” (we continually progress towards the past) leaves us feeling as if we are watching the grains of sand in our hourglass slowly drop right before our eyes. The other facet to consider is that our hourglass may break at any moment. Here today and gone tomorrow. Gone this instant. If you knew this next hour was your last, would you treat it differently? Would you treat yourself differently? Would you treat others differently? What would you say? To whom would you say it?

We spend so much of our existence lost in the infinite pool of thoughts between our ears. We are both the speaker and the listener and so much of what we experience (if not all of it) is subjected to our preconceived notions, biases, and projections. Experiencing “reality” for what it truly is, is limited by our sensory faculties as well as the tools that humanity has made. So much of reality cannot be truly experienced in its basest form. We are left with what we have been given and what we have managed to create. To be blunt, I think that is more than enough. In the Information Age, there is never of lack of learning to be done, new things to see, new people to meet, or new places to experience. To be bored is to be boring. Branch out. Meet new people. Do new things. Visit new places. Learn as much as possible to enrich your experience. To do otherwise would be a waste of life. In my humble opinion at least…so, on second thought… do as you please. Spend your life however you deem fit. No answers. Only questions. I hope you all find the combination of peace, clarity, and contentedness that seems to constantly elude me.

What’s New?

So much has changed this year. Where do I even begin? I suppose the most significant event has been the birth of my second son, Saxon Richard Cook. Saxon was nearly 11 lbs at birth, and is now 3 months old. Overall he has been relaxed and sleeps most of the day (I almost forget that he is here). It has been so much fun to see him interact with his older brother, Olyn, who recently turned 3 years old. I daydream about how their relationship will progress as siblings. I am hoping they become and remain close throughout their lives.

In other news, I am close to the halfway mark of completing a Master of Public Administration degree from Villanova University. The program has been more intensive and immersive than I was expecting, and has been very rewarding so far. I am also halfway through a full-time Pathways Internship with NASA. It too, has been better than I anticipated and a very rewarding experience. I have been working on their social media development plan, and I am also looking to improve their search engine optimization. I am unsure whether or not I will continue to pursue federal employment, or pursue a Ph.D. in public administration. I may decide to pursue several internships over the course of the next year before classes begin in the fall of 2022 (should I be accepted and pursue a Ph.D.).

Aside from my son’s birth, and new school and work opportunities, there are several other events of note. My uncle recently passed away at the age of 63. My grandparents have now lost 3 of their 6 children, and their second son in two years. Having children of my own, I cannot wrap my mind around the pain and grief that losing a child must cause (let alone three). My oldest brother has purchased my father’s house and is going to renovate it/keep it in the family. He is still living and working with three children in D.C. My older brother is still surfing/modeling in NYC. And my youngest brother completed a six month voyage at sea, and will be moving to the Austin area in a month or two.

Outside of these major events, there is not much to report on. Life in southern Maryland is slow and peaceful (almost too much so). We live in a small neighborhood in a rural are that is quiet and safe. As I’m typing this, it is starting to feel like I need to add some more excitement/entertainment into my life. It is becoming a bit monotonous. We shall see what I can come up with I suppose. Onward and upward.