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.

Game Changer

Four days ago I was prescribed a low dose of Vyvanze. I had recently been struggling with focus, impulsivity, and follow-through on tasks. Twenty years of contact sports had taken their toll on my brain, and the results were markedly clear in SPECT scan imaging. Not only was there a decrease in activity and damage to several regions, but, it also showed common trademark aspects of ADD/ADHD both in the scans and in the cognitive tests I had received. The results of the addition of Vyvanze into my life has been nothing short of remarkable. I truly wish I had been prescribed a similar medication for the past fifteen years.

My energy is clean, consistent, and sufficient. My focus and follow-through have drastically improved. And my impulsivity is relatively under control (for example, my screen-time has been reduced by about 2/3). In the past few days I have completed tasks with astounding ease that I had previously been putting off for months on end. I am ahead on all of the household tasks to the degree that there is no need for a to-do list tomorrow. The areas where the laundry used to pile up, and the dishes used to stack next to the sink, are now spic and span. I no longer hesitate or procrastinate on tasks. I act, and I act in the moment. It has truly been a night and day experience so far.

I no longer dread making administrative phone calls or sending emails. I wake up earlier, workout more often, I am more productive and goal-oriented throughout the day, and I sleep more soundly. I no longer feel the need to nap in the afternoon, and my mood is calmer and more stable. I look forward to the following day, and I am excited for what it has in store for me. I read double the amount of pages I had previously been reading, and even my handwriting has improved. I am not “tooting my own horn,” but I am merely providing evidence for the huge difference that such a small change has made.

I am looking forward to what can be accomplished now that I am properly medicated. I haven’t felt this much clarity, focus, and consistency in nearly a decade. I am finally beginning to once again feel like a fully-capable and high-performing individual. Over the course of just today, I have a renewed interest in social psychology (listened to a 2.5 hour podcast), learning languages (lessons in German and Norwegian on Duolingo), and even pulled out a saxophone to give it a try (didn’t go so well). I have a renewed vigor and lust for life, I have set new goals, and I feel ready to reach for them. I am eternally indebted to the team of doctors and professionals that have provided me with the care I so desperately needed, and I am forever grateful for a second chance at life. For those of you struggling with similar problems, I highly recommend speaking to your doctor about possible solutions.

What’s New?

I haven’t written a blog post since June 12th. My laptop has been sitting on a side table for over a month. I have passed by and glanced at it innumerable times since then. I just haven’t had the urge to write. I have been fully immersed in raising a toddler as a stay-at-home-dad, and that has kept me more than busy. He is now 27 months old and becoming such a handful. His speech has increased dramatically and his motor skills are highly impressive at times. We are learning to play tee-ball and lacrosse, running races, exploring for animals and insects, and enjoying learning words, shapes, colors, and numbers.

The necessity of seeing the world on his level has allowed me to return to a child-like consciousness. I am seeing everything through a new lens, and as if I am seeing them for the first time. It is a good reminder of the miraculous intricacies all around us. I have learned more about insects in the past few months than I have in the first thirty years of my life. This experience is also a reminder that there is ALWAYS something to learn. The world is full of so many minute details that we take for granted. I am so grateful for the opportunity to see the world anew once again.

My wife turned 28 years old on July 4th, and has become a freelance web-developer and mindset coach. She will also be starting a coding course with JHU this August. To top it all off, she is pregnant with our second child. She thinks it will be a girl, however, my son and I think that it will be another boy. I am hopeful for another boy, because it is in my comfort zone coming from a family of four boys. The idea of having a girl is almost too hard for me to imagine. I’m sure that if we did end up having a girl, that I would be smitten from the beginning and would soon enjoy a new childcare experience. I am fine with either one, as long as they are happy and healthy.

It has been a year since the passing of my father, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss him dearly. He would have had so much fun with his grandson. One of my brothers is modeling in New York, and surfing daily in Rockaway. My oldest brother has three young children, is working for the DOD, and lives in Georgetown. My youngest brother is a merchant mariner in Texas. Because of the pandemic, we have not seen each other in almost six months. I am excited for a much-needed reunion when things normalize.

My life now revolves around my toddler and taking care of the needs of my pregnant wife who is wearing many hats. I find solace in not being the center of my world. Living for others is truly a humbling experience. I am so lucky to be able to spend so much time with my family. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am looking forward to things normalizing and being able to see my family and friends again on a regular basis. That’s all for now, and in retrospect I am grateful that these are the only things to report on for the past month. Onward and upward and wishing everyone a happy, healthy summer.

Primal Fantasy

In my late teens, I had a recurring fantasy of traveling throughout Europe and spreading my seed wherever I went. The goal was to have as many children as possible, with as many women as possible. I chose Europe because I have an affinity for Caucasians like myself, and for some reason thought that my bastard children’s lives would be easier in the developed world. This was clearly not very well thought out, and was strictly a fantasy. I am unsure of why, but the fantasy has taken hold of me again. After having one child in wedlock, I am suddenly stricken with the desire to make as many as possible, and by any means necessary, before I die.

I have a variety of theories as to why this sudden urge is rising in me. 1. It is a natural biological instinct to have as many offspring as possible. 2. I am having a surge of testosterone from proper diet and exercise. 3. I am unhappy with monogamy. 4. I want to have more kids with my wife, but the rate of reproduction is too slow for satisfaction. 5. I am twisted and delusional and need therapy. The cause may be one, or a combination of any of the aforementioned possibilities. I am unsure, but I know that I am bombarded with the idea throughout the day.

In a perfect world, I would have the means to have a large harem of women who were popping out babies at my bidding. And by a perfect world, I mean if I were a modern-day Genghis Khan. Would it be a healthy environment for the women and children? Likely not. I wouldn’t have the time or energy to meet all of their needs. Would it be enjoyable for myself? There are certainly pros and cons. Will this fantasy ever take place. No. Is it fun to think about? Absolutely. Again, this is just a testosterone-fueled fantasy that has been on my mind lately.

Part of me feels as if it is a good sign that I have healthy levels of testosterone. Another part of me feels as if I have too much free-time on my hands. And still another part of me feels as if I am unhappy and full of regret. I love my wife and child very much. Wouldn’t it make sense that more of a good thing is better? If only it was that simple. Childish fantasies are fun to play around with, but at the end of the day, I enjoy making my best effort to meet the needs of my small family. We are healthy and happy, and maybe we will have more children in the future. For now, that is enough.

I’m Back…After 144 Days

My last post was on January 3rd. So much has happened since then. After twenty years of contact sports, a car wreck, and periods of substance abuse, my brain was in need of some TLC. SPECT-scans at a specialist clinic confirmed my suspicions. I had damage to five different regions of my brain, along with an overall decrease in activity. I received 40 hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy treatments between mid-March and mid-April. The results have been nothing short of remarkable. Blood and oxygen flow has been increased, new connections have been made, and my brain’s capacity has been restored by up to 40%. It feels as if I have had a brain transplant- that is the only way to describe it. I feel like a new person. I have been gifted with a second chance at life, and I plan on making the most of it.

So far, my energy, focus, endurance, and mood have all shown improvement. Not only has my overall mental capacity and outlook improved, I have been inspired to take on new challenges. In a matter of a few weeks I have learned how to juggle three balls with relative ease. I have coupled this new physical challenge with learning a language. My wife spent her early life in Norway and has a strong grasp on the language. With the possibility of moving to Norway at some point during my son’s childhood, I have taken on the task of learning Norwegian. I now know a few hundred words and do my best to spend 20-30 minutes a day on lessons. My wife and I have also made an effort to play chess a few times a week. These three changes, although seemingly mild, have had a dramatic impact on my quality of life.

I have a renewed desire for learning and growth, a rejuvenated interest in spiritual development, and an outlook on life that is rooted in positivity. I am excited to see new places, meet new people, and do new things without hesitation for the first time in my life. Despite these positive changes, I have a lingering sensation of regret for lost time. I feel as if I completely lost a decade of my life. From 20-30, my life was a continual struggle. Little did I know that I was battling with bipolar disorder, brain damage, and adult ADHD. I am much more forgiving with myself than I had been before these diagnoses. I just couldn’t seem to get myself or my life figured out and I was very hard on myself until now. I have forgiven myself for my ignorance and lack of action, and am focusing on making the most of the time that I have left.

Following the chamber treatments, my remaining medication is no longer needed, I take care of my two year old son for 40+ hours a week, I’ve started exercising again, and I am exploring Jungian psychology in hopes of reconnecting with my Self. I am going to take the necessary steps to tap into my unconscious mind and operate with an unprecedented level of clarity. I am going to surrender my ego and conscious mind to the power of my unconscious and allow it to properly guide me for the rest of my life. It should allow for an inexplicably fluid and creative journey. I am looking forward to writing again, interpreting my dreams, and tapping into a deep relationship with my unconscious in order to complete the process of my own individuation in order to become the cosmic man and my complete Self.

A New Decade

The twenty-twenties have begun. A new set of ten years- a new decade. It is fun to reminisce about the previous decade. The past ten years hold so many experiences and memories, that I am more than excited to see what the next ten years have in store.

In the past ten years I decided to leave the United States Naval Academy. I received my undergraduate degree in political science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. I was awarded as a USILA All-American in lacrosse. I became a husband to a beautiful wife, and the father of an amazing son.

On top of those things, I became engaged in the Coliseum in Rome. I stayed in a villa in Tuscany, swam in the Mediterranean, and explored the Amalfi coast. I moved to and lived in California for two years, and coached lacrosse at the youth, high school, junior college, and college levels.

I worked in San Francisco, dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean, and spent many days on some of California’s most admired beaches. I drove up and down coastal highway, and visited some of Sonoma and Napa county’s famous wineries. I spent a few weeks in rural Oregon, and a few days at Yosemite National Park.

I made a trip to the Dominican Republic, lounged on white sand beaches, and drank out of coconuts. To top it all off I was lucky enough to visit Kauai and surf in Hanalei Bay. I would have never had any of those opportunities and experiences had I not lived by myself in Annapolis, MD for a year.

My time alone when I was 25 was when I first truly connected with self and spirit. Before then, I had never really known who I was or what I wanted out of life. I set down roots and built a launch pad which was sufficient to propel me through a wild five years. Looking back, it all seems like a dream. I suppose you truly can’t put a price on experiences.

I must admit that I am a much better person than I was in 2010, and I guess that is what truly matters. I have bettered myself and my life and not the opposite. There were many times that I felt as if life was at a standstill and potentially over. There were times when I have pondered cutting it short and ending it myself if I am going to be truly honest.

I have never been more appreciative, excited, and grateful to be alive. Despite its inexplicable complexity, its sometimes mind-boggling trials, and its ups and downs, life is a gift and a miraculous experience when lived properly. I suppose the key is to do your best to become the best possible version of yourself, hang on for the ride as best as you can, and have a positive influence on everyone that you meet along the way.

I am so grateful to be alive, so thankful for each and every day that I am still breathing, and am looking forward to a new decade of experiences and opportunities. The real question is, am I choosing my path, or am I just along for the ride? Is it free will or destiny? Either way, I feel truly blessed to be a part of this cosmic play in an infinite universe. I’m going to do my best to stay grateful, stay positive, and live life to the fullest for as much time as I have been allotted. I wish all of you a happy new year, and a rich and fulfilling decade.