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.

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.

On “Race”

Until the late 19th century, race was typically based on language and nationality. Following Darwin’s published research, however, humans began to look at themselves as they would other animals. This sparked a new argument of “race” as heredity. The fundamental results were a classification of their fellow humans as “lower” and “higher” races. These ideas were proposed by Caucasian males who argued that those with Nordic traits (blue eyes, blonde hair, and fair skin) sat atop the human totem pole. They claimed that these humans were largely responsible for order, civilization, and social progress. This inherently categorized those with dark skin and dark hair as the “lower” races.

Are we supposed to believe that Caucasians with Nordic traits are genetically superior? If so, I don’t buy it. I am convinced that social history has played out the way it has by chance. Some groups have been exposed to ideas, tools, and conditions that have perpetuated the expansion of “modern” civilization. Whether or not modern civilization has been progressive (especially in terms of its ethical implications) is debatable. We are where we are today because of environmental factors that have given certain groups an advantage in exploiting their environment and other humans.

I understand this is a hot-button issue, and I am merely trying to get my tumultuous thoughts out in the open. My opinion is that hereditary superiority is a fallacy. One’s cultural environment is the sole determining factor (withholding genetic disorders) of their ability to adapt to the world. A person’s genetic traits are beneficial, or not, based on the current trends of social constructs. Unfortunately, the roots of racial bias run so deeply in the United States, that I am unsure if we will ever resolve the issue. This nation was founded by an aristocracy that exploited other human beings. It seems as if social equality was doomed from the start.

Does this mean that I have lost hope? No. I have faith that I will witness legitimate social equality in my lifetime. We have come so far since the founding of our nation, but we certainly have a long way to go. Racial, economic, and gender inequality are still rampant. Until the institutions in place undergo drastic changes, or are overthrown, systematic inequality will remain a factor for all Americans. I am not preaching anarchy or violent revolution, but changes must be made, and they must be made quickly. We are at a critical juncture in the life of our young country. We are teetering between social progress and social regression. It will be a difficult road to navigate, but I am convinced that Americans will come together to create the changes that need to be made.

The color of our skin, hair, and eyes should be a non-factor. We are all earthlings. We are all riding on the same organic spaceship, and we are (so far as we know) the only intelligent beings capable of maintaining a peaceful and ecologically sound existence on this planet. We must continue to work towards social and economic equality, clean and renewable energy, and the conservation of our natural world. We must return to living in harmony with Mother Earth and each other, or we will surely be the authors of our own demise. Be kind. Spread love. Preach peace. Together, we will make it through these hard times.

Dream Interpretation # 1 (Marble Mansion)

This is the first of my documented attempts at recounting and interpreting my dreams. I am doing this in order to tune into my unconscious mind, and in turn, further the process of my individuation. My hope is that I will eventually be able to use my unconscious and conscious minds in a harmonious and complementary unison; operating from a seat of infinite and fluid creativity as my highest Self. Here it goes…

Dream:

I am standing on a flat, pale granite plateau. There are an assortment of vehicles including cars, buses, and troop carriers in a line. Despite there being so many vehicles, there are only a handful of people. A civilian/military conflict has been resolved but we are looking for someone who has successfully avoided participation. Dynamite is thrown into a crack in the granite. The sticks explode and a massive marble mansion rises from the plateau.

A middle-aged Caucasian male with shoulder-length dark hair walks out onto the balcony. He is dressed in a gray unbuttoned dress shirt and suit coat with loafers. He seems relaxed, and welcomes me into his home. He has a European accent when speaking English, but I cannot determine where he is from. The mansion is beautiful and modern, but his wife is unhappy, and curled up on the couch facing away from us.

He gives me a tour, and explains to me that large sections of the house are unfinished, and he is sinking into debt. He mentions that he is trying to develop them into community apartments and showers, but worries that nobody will be interested. We walk to a basement level with many shower stalls. Only one shower is working. My college roommate comes out of the shower in a towel and we shake hands and chat. My roommate continues on his way. The mansion owner and I return upstairs.

I walk past the single TV in the house. It is a flat-screen of modest size, and half of it is shaded by a black curtain. I find myself in a room with my sister-in-law. She is wearing a red bikini and relaxing on a small couch. We are discussing dreams. She tells me that she is going to write a book about lucid dreaming after tripping on hallucinogenics. Apparently she has been having many lucid dreams after abusing certain substances. Her nipple slips out but it is painted over with red. We both laugh about it. Then I wake up.

Interpretation:

The civilian/military conflict and vehicles represent the situation of martial law playing out in D.C. right now. The mansion rising from the granite after sticks of dynamite being thrown at it may represent the attack on economic inequality. The wife being unhappy despite being in a massive, modern mansion may represent gender inequality issues that are also being brought to light. The man is also sinking into debt. In my eyes, the mansion, the dynamite, and the man and is wife, the civilian/military conflict, and his economic struggles are a direct reflection of the issues arising in the American social sphere right now.

My college roommate was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and attended Cambridge on full scholarship for graduate school. I’m not sure why he is the only one in the basement using the only working shower. He may represent the need to keep my mind and intellect clean from the constant bombardment of the negativity seeping out of media platforms. The TV being half-covered by a curtain represents my efforts to filter and monitor the information I am exposing myself to. I have always been attracted to my sister-in-law, which is why she may be scantily-clad and wearing red. The nip-slip, paint covering it, and the ensuing humor, probably represent the attraction never resulting in actuality.

I am assuming she represents my anima in the dream. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jungian psychology, the “anima” is the unconscious feminine side of a man. I am supposing that she is discussing lucid dreaming with me because of my decision to take my dreams seriously. She, on the one hand, is taking dreams so seriously that she is convinced that she will write a book on it. I disagree with the need to take hallucinogenics in order to have powerful dreams, however it may be my unconscious reminding me of the enjoyment of my experimentation with LSD. Either way, I am going to interpret this as my anima reinforcing my decision to take my dreams seriously and to strengthen my connection with my unconscious.

My interpretation may not be completely accurate, and may actually be far from it, but it is a crucial step in forming a powerful relationship with my unconscious. I am going to continue to recount and interpret my dreams in the hopes of becoming my highest Self. I have a feeling that this is going to be a profound, transformative experience.

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.

June? Already?

5 months have disappeared. 2020 is almost halfway over. Where does the time go? I have several goals for this month in order to reset and re-establish myself in the present. My first goal is to document my dreams and my unconscious fantasies, and to treat them as concrete realities. My hope is that the more in-tune I become with my unconscious, the more it will reveal to me. If this is true, I will be able to navigate life from a seat of fluid, never-ending creativity. I am going to delve deeply into this in the coming weeks, and I will report on the effects or lack thereof.

My other goals are to exercise, read, write, learn a language, meditate, and visualize on a daily basis. These are mostly habitual already, but I am going to exercise more discipline around the practices. As the world heals and opens back up, I am also planning on exploring new places, people, and things with my wife and son. My goal is to burst out of the comfortable bubble and to see something new every day. While things seem to be getting out of control around the world, I am going to take the opportunity to implement deep gratitude, send healing vibes, and show compassion and love to everyone I encounter. I am going to make an effort to become a part of the solution, and not a part of the problem.

I am meditating and visualizing on a peaceful and prosperous world. Time heals all, and this too shall pass. Please do your best to preach peace, find solutions, and spread love. Heal your inner world, help others do the same, and eventually the outer world will follow suit. Stay positive, stay safe, and help others when possible. With love and cooperation, we can build a new world. I believe things will have changed for the better by the end of the month. The positivity of the second half of the year will outshine the negativity of the first. I love you all, and I am looking forward to this healing journey in June.

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.

CTE

I recently read an article about a former USC defensive back. It wasn’t about his charity work. It wasn’t about him pursuing political office. It was about him wandering into traffic and getting hit by a Chevy Astrovan. He was 31 years old.

Like many football players, he was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. It’s a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries. Symptoms include behavioral problems, trouble thinking, and mood problems. It often becomes worse over time.

After 20 years of contact sports, I am intuitively inclined to think that I have and am developing the very same disease. Reading the article was like reading my own biography. We shared the same issues, same mood and behavioral problems, and “a headache that never seemed to go away.” We have both self-medicated to no avail.

CTE is often misdiagnosed as bipolar of schizophrenia. They share similar characteristics, especially as the disease becomes more injurious to the mind. I have trouble staying awake, I have focus issues, and chronic depression. I’ve had too many concussions to count, and I feel like the effects are finally catching up with me.

I find myself in a time warp of sorts- days, weeks, and months are gone in a flash. I have memory problems which only seem to get worse. My sense of smell is almost non-existent (an early indicator of CTE). And instinctively, I know that something is wrong between my ears. I know that I’ve done severe damage to myself, but I’m unsure of the extent. I’m hoping a new test and treatment options are made available soon. As of now, there is no conclusive test until death, and there are no treatments available. Keeping my fingers crossed.