Easter, Ishtar and Passover

augustineHAPPY GOOD FRIDAY, All!

Well, today is a day that continues to mark a celebration of Passover or “Pesach” for descendants of the Israelite people, as well as Good Friday. Last Sunday was Palm Sunday and this Sunday is Easter! Do you know the history behind each of these celebrations? There were emperors, in particular Constantine who influenced the Christian elements in Easter as well as a hint of a Babylonian pagan image of fertility known as “Ishtar”. Apparently, there is a crossover and overlap, if you will, of these Holy Days as well as multiple symbols of things like the rabbit and the Easter egg. Can anyone tell you what to celebrate and how? I think not, though it would be worth anyone’s while to do some research including looking at the Bible to see the origins of these celebrations, as well as a look at the Torah, preferably translated into English unless one understands Hebrew!

One of the things I try to do when writing and communicating ideas with others is emphasize the values of peace, love, cooperation, equality, honesty and justice. By now, I am sure I may have gained some “enemies”, so to speak, because of my insistence on non-violence and human harmony, regardless of ethnic group or religion, birth place or ancestry. Yet, I continue, as I believe my parents and my Creator would have me be, as opposed to advocating violence and revenge as a way of life. I’ve never HAD to use those, thank my Creator whom I choose to call “God” and my parents, neither of whom have left me to fend completely for myself, thusly making violence and revenge a necessity for my existence. In many ways, I have ” … been there, done that …” and seek every avenue in life that will NOT cause me to revert back to those basic human characteristics.

So, what ever you choose to celebrate, even if it is nothing, be humble enough to allow others to celebrate what they like to believe … as long as it doesn’t hurt you! Have a great weekend, and, Happy Holy Days!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

“You Hit the Jackpot!”

jackpotHappy Hump Day, All!

Yes, it is mid-week of the last week in March 2013. How do you like that?! How do you like Tiger Woods’s comeback to win again? Had you counted him out, too? Manufacturers are “toying” with the idea of having an action figure come out in his very own likeness!! How about those Miami HEAT, as they chase the NBA record for longest winning streak since the Los Angeles Lakers? They are truly looking like champions. I hope that they can continue winning, and, perhaps … capture another championship for the fans in Miami.

I think one of the best stories lately of how chance can move one’s life around a bit is the gentleman in New Jersey who worked in a delicatessen and randomly played a “quick pick” for the Power Ball Game … and netted $152 million dollars, take home pay! Now that’s “amazing”, too! The other interesting thing about this guy is that he is from the Dominican Republic and does not even speak English! The newscast last night showed him cutting bread to make a hoagie like sandwich, which we used to call “wedges”, and he stated that the money will change his life but NOT his heart! He claims that he will remain humble at heart. Meanwhile, Donald Trump offered his “two cents” worth of comment stating that this guy had better be careful how he spends his money because people will be coming out of the woodwork to try to scheme him out of his winnings.

Do you have some changes to make in your life? Maybe you won’t be so lucky as to hit a multi-million dollar Power Ball winning but each of us can make a decision to change, and, it could be like “you hit the jackpot”!

“Man is in love … And loves what vanishes; What more is there to say?” – W. B. Yeats

God, help me to engage with life fully and to accept change. (TOUCHSTONES March 27, 2013)

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

“Fly On, Baby . . . Fly On!”

Happy Monday, All!

Spring has “sprung” in many places, the little saplings may be forming underneath the snow … if that’s where you are. The days are moving and months are going by …. we are almost at the end of March 2013. How are those New Year’s Resolutions doing? I’ve got a couple under way pretty well and one more needs a push, so to speak. “Everybody loves the sunshine …” … just ask the Spring Breakers down here in SoFlo! One of my buddies out of New York who’s been living here with his wife and their youngest child – daughter, Rashida – called me yesterday from “Peace in the Park” at Hollywood’s (Florida) Young Circle. I was on my way back from the “Celebration of Life” for my long time friend who passed away from ALS a couple weeks ago when he called. He said it was really nice, so, a hat’s off to my spiritual friends from the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual World University for making that happen, too!

Well, the service held yesterday at the Renaissance Hotel in Plantation, FL was “awesome”! Peter’s sister, Christy, really orchestrated a wonderful event for us all to attend … and participate in. The Rabbi conducted the service with various prayers and chants in Hebrew, he spoke about Peter’s life, his family, his hard work ethic as well as the incredible disease that sucked the life out of a once vibrant, strapping athlete, father and husband, son and employee. Peace be still. At the podium was a great photograph of Peter, which captured the resilience that he displayed in merely his facial expression as well as an urn with his ashes. The immediate family sat in the first two rows on the right hand side, and close friends like myself joined in the festivities in the rows following while the event room’s other side was filled with clients, co-workers, friends of FMS Bonds and others who were invited by the aforementioned.

When the Rabbi had finished with his prayers and songs done acapella in Hebrew, he invited his son Jordan up first to say a few words. Now, this young lad is just in his early twenties so he was a bit overwhelmed, yet, did well expressing how his dad “always had my back”! Jordan is Peter’s only son. Then he invited Howie Weintraub, long time friend and co-athlete with “Zach” and I from junior high school football in White Plains; Richard Kozi (?) his roommate from University of Maryland and co-football player on that team; the owner of FMS Bonds, Jimmy Klotz; and me up one by one to say a few words. I had prepared something early yesterday morning during my hour of meditation but didn’t write it down . . . I stuck it in my heart . . . next to the place that my boy “Petey” occupies. It flowed well when my time came to speak.

What can we do when we lose someone we love? My suggestion to everyone there was that we keep him in our hearts … very simple … it lessens the longing for them and provides them with a permanent place in our lives … spiritually. So … uh … I’m kind of getting choked up now so I’m gonna go now. Sending eternal love to you, Petey, and all your family and friends … forever and ever …

Namaste my friend … namaste!

John I. CookEmoji, Director

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Timing Is Everything . . . Up To A Point!

timingHappy Friday, All!

In hopes that your weeks went well, T.G.I.F.! Anyone like to complete this sentence: “In the beginning ….” How about this one: “In the end I will be ….”. Give it your best shot and send me a reply, if you like! On my new website, johncook7613.wix.com/know-thyself, I make some references to the concept of fluidity, “being like water” as Bruce Lee advocated. Just yesterday, I was talking to another associate of mine who hinted at his studies of Buddhism, and gave me a card. I researched it and came up with much of what I presently do, minus some of the chants, etcetera. I think the overall goal of most spiritual programs is, however, knowing oneself … and acknowledging a “higher power”.

So, the “Peace in the Park” hosted by some great friends at the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University out of Miami, FL, is this Sunday, March 24th, 2013 from 1-6pm at Young Circle’s “Art Park”, Hollywood, FL. At that same time, I will be attending my long time friend, running partner, confidante and “bosom buddy”, Mr. Peter Andrew Zachary’s “Celebration of Life” service with probably hundreds of his friends and family, from California to New York, at the Renaissance Hotel/Resort in Plantation, FL. Can you say, “Timing is Everything”?

I remember how my parents used to scold me and mold me, make me do my homework with my sister Edna’s guidance,empty the trash and make me come into to our apartment at the Winbrook Housing Development there on South Lexington Ave./Fisher Ave./Grove Street … aka “The Projects” in White Plains, NY by 7pm weeknights. I think they were trying to get me ready for something … something that had not yet come our way. Upon demonstrating certain strengths in academics coupled with my mother’s involvement in community politics and programs while she cleaned houses in White Plains, I was approached by Mr. Daniel Woodard, assistant principal at White Plains High School. He was a mentor of mine via the Urban League of Westchester County and introduced to some people from a boarding school in Concord, NH … timing is everything!

Just last night, I was watching the local news and up comes a story on Michael Brewer … four years after he had been doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire by some “school associates” purportedly, trying to collect on a debt. Brewer was stopped by police last night in West Palm Beach’s “Royal Palm” neighborhood for making an illegal u-turn in a van. When stopped, the police smelled marijuana, which prompted them to search the van. There were glass pipes, containers for drugs, crack cocaine, marijuana, oxycodone pills and a variety of other drug paraphernalia. Brewer had no driver’s license, and, just the day before, his mother was in court while the last of the three “teen attackers” was facing sentencing for setting him on fire just four years ago. A lot can happen in four years, right? Yes, yes, timing is everything … up to a point …

A couple of days ago, I was chatting with Peter’s son, Jordan, and I complimented him on a piece he wrote about his father for a social network. We chuckled, chatted, got serious a bit as I told him that my next book will have a chapter called “Me and Petey” and we went over briefly one of his dad’s suggestions to him – “GSD”. GSD, you might ask? Yes, “Get Sh_t Done!”, which Zach’s only son is faced with in the aftermath of his father’s passing. Now, he’s in his early twenties so I suspect he has a good idea of how to “GSD” … and I plan to be available to assist in any way I can.

Just keep in mind, folks, timing is everything … up to a point! Something is prompting me to tell you all that I love you … all of you … whether you “love” me or care back is not important … just know that I told you so. My Creator does the rest!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

The Power of Peace

peace powerHappy Hump Day, All!

What a week we’ve had! The trial of the two teen boys from Steubenville, OH generated a lot of comments and responses from many of us, as the issue of violence against women has re-surfaced in the international community as well. Major networks as well as individuals churned comments regarding the “football players with a future”, as if the young lady has no future!! What kind of message is that sending to that young lady in particular? What about to young women everywhere who may face a similar situation?

Rumors have it that in Syria, there have been reports of chemical weapons used by one or maybe even both sides in the conflict there. Reports and images of people suffering from attacks to their nervous system surfaced on the international media. We can choose to believe it … or not! The young man at a college in Central Florida whose rampage attack seemed to be thwarted not only because the fire alarm, which the student triggered himself in order to get “victims” into his vision, also alerted his room mate who came out, saw the weapon (he wasn’t sure if it was real or not), and called “911”, but also the fact that he purportedly killed himself. By the time the SWAT team had gotten there, the planned “attacker” had shot himself, apparently, in the head. Believe it … or not!

I choose today to try to deal with hostile forces with a peaceful attitude, more so towards MYSELF than toward the hostile forces themselves. If I can remove myself from the environment quickly, I do so in a peaceful manner. It is kind of like basketball on different skill levels, but in this case, the NBA. Coaches insist that their players NOT lose their cool on the court for a variety of reasons and repercussions including being called for a foul. More importantly, it is suggested so that the players may maintain control over THEMSELVES, and appropriately plan and execute the proper attack … on the court. Are our lives and emotions throughout our every day activities similar to that which players face on an intensified level on the basketball court? I think so! There have been times in my life when I had to respond to an attack with force. The best of those times, I was able to stop an attacker who had already demonstrated his desire to incapacitate me by backing up, preparing myself … quietly and peacefully … and then retaliate under control. I am not an advocate for violence. Yet, I refuse to be pummeled and beaten by anyone, regardless of their income or position, title or friends and associates. But I maintain and believe in “the power of peace”!

Enjoy your first day of Spring, if you will, wherever you are … in the snow covered northern states or in the sunny and warm southern states! Here, locally, let’s get ready for “Peace in the Park”, Sunday March 24th, 2013 at Young Circle’s Art Park in Hollywood, FL from 1-6pm.

Namaste,

John I. Cook, Director

“When The Smoke Clears”

when the smoke clearsHappy Monday, All!

And, if you didn’t get your “blarney” on this past weekend, you’ll have to wait until next year to get your St. Patrick’s Day Celebration again! Last Friday’s e-mail had an error in terms of time and place for my friend “Zach’s” Life Celebration Event. Even though his sister, Andrea, had sent me a text with the date, time and address of the service, I jumped a week ahead. In other words, the service will be held THIS coming Sunday, same time, same place … peace be still.

Quite an eventful weekend with Pope Francis I taking office officially and giving his first Sunday Service there in The Vatican. It brought back memories of when my mother had come back from her trip to Italy, Rome in particular, with photographs and slides, which were common back then! She was thoroughly impressed with the energy found in the “streets of the Vatican”, and, while she was a professed Baptist, she was in awe at how “holy”, if you will, the Catholic Church’s rituals and ceremonies were! There is much to change, should he decide to take on major issues confronting the beleaguered church … when the smoke clears.

The two boys in Steubenville, OH have been found guilty as charged and both face time in a juvenile detention center and program. While we all want to have a “good time” when we are young and do things that might seem so much fun at the time, one really has to rethink the activities one may engage in as well as the location and people involved … when one takes such a chance. The saddest thing for me was to hear the young lady who was viciously attacked and raped while drunk was that all she remembers is leaving the party with one of the defendants holding his hand and then … she woke up nude, no cell phone and none of her clothes were nearby. While she at first was going to play the “I can’t remember …” game out of a desire to hide her embarrassment, she decided to go to the authorities and report what she did remember. I am glad that they were apprehended and found guilty.

Deon Davis, author and motivational speaker, held a book-signing for the release of her new book entitled, “Beanie and The Bully”, on Saturday afternoon at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center. There were approximately 20 kids and their parents who attended that received a “goody bag” as well as a copy of Ms. Davis’s book. It was a fun event which also included a skit. Ms. Davis will be doing another event soon at the Main Library in Broward County … will keep you posted. Saturday night I had the pleasure of meeting up with a boarding school chum, whom I just realized graduated one year after me, but was diligent and we stayed in touch over the past two years or so by the social network of Facebook. We met for dinner, including his lovely wife Liz and their teenaged daughter Emily, and enjoyed a pre-game meal at The Cheesecake Factory before going to watch the Florida Panther’s Hockey Team try to hold off the New York Islanders team. It was a great game, and it was very cool to meet up with Mr. Hodder, Esq. again since he travels between Toronto Canada and their home in Naples, FL. That’s what friends are for … Thanks, “Counselor”!

Yesterday was a lot of fun with St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations everywhere! Here in the FTL, festivities flowed over into the street both on the Beach at a pool club called “Exit 66” as well as downtown at the River Front where the street was closed off and celebrators were dressed in their green, enjoying the beer and music as a live band began to play around sundown! The Miami HEAT basketball team won their 22nd game in a row while my New York Knicks lost yet another game. Keep your eyes open, folks, for when the smoke clears.

“Oh, that one could learn to learn in time.” – Enrique Solari

May I acknowledge and let go of my griefs and regrets so I can attend to life here and now. (TOUCHSTONES, March 18th)

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

” . . . Things Keep On Changing!”

namasteHappy Friday, Citizens of the Universe!

Yes, and, if you will, T.G.I.F.! It seemed to me at first that this week was going by ever so slowly … Then suddenly, I turned around, and it was Thursday!!! And now … it’s Friday again! ” … Things keep on changin’!” There is a new pope – Pope Francis I – and there hasn’t been an upper level member of the Catholic Church of that name they say since St. Francis of Assisi, the wealthy gentleman who gave up all of his riches and served the Catholic Church. He was given the title of “saint” on July 16, 1228, by Pope Gregory IX. The new Pope, Francis I, comes from the Argentinean clergy, whose parents were born in Italy, and he is a Jesuit Catholic. My time working in Cali, Colombia, SA brought me to the doors of the Jesuit founded “La Pontificia Universidad Javeriana” as an English teacher for engineering, business administration and psychology at the University level. The Jesuits have historically been known to be very pious, yet humane Catholics, if you will.

Some of our local festivities this weekend include St. Patrick Day Celebrations and I am sure there will be many many more … worldwide … including New York’s 251st St. Patrick’s Day Parade this Saturday … tomorrow! Now that’s history, my lads and lassies, and the celebrations have always been green, especially the beer! Also this Saturday is a “bullying summit” held at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center including a book signing by local author, Deon Davis. The event begins at 3:30pm March 16th, 2013 there at the library on Sistrunk Boulevard near downtown Fort Lauderdale. Afterwards, I plan to meet up with a boarding school chum, Gary Hodder, Esq., who lives in Toronto and has a home in Naples, FL. Mr. Hodder is a Florida Panther’s fan, as well as a hockey aficiaonado in general, and he and his wife and daughter have invited me to dinner … and a Panther’s game, though the state hockey team isn’t doing so well this year. It will be a nice time to see Gary and finally meet his family.

Sunday will be an important day for the friends, family and clients of my dear friend who passed exactly a week ago, Mr. Peter Zachary – RIP. His immediate family has planned an event at the Renaissance Ft. Lauderdale Hotel in Plantation that starts at 1pm. It will first be a “going away” service followed by a “Celebration of Zack’s Life” also there at the Renaissance Hotel where his clients get to meet his family and friends, tell some stories and ultimately celebrate his life. Peter has been the senior vice president for First Miami Securities for more than the past 10 or 15 years though he has worked for the firm for over 30 years. May this event give him a fond farewell and send off from our realm of existence. Peter’s desire was to be cremated, have a celebration as is planned, and have his ashes spread wherever his surviving family members have been instructed by him before his passing. Travel safely, my friend, until we meet again …

Have a great weekend, and, tell somebody you love them!

Namaste …

John I. Cook, Director

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