“Much Ado About Nothing . . .”

Much AdoHappy Hump Day, All!

How is the week treating you so far? And how are you treating it, more importantly?! Just so you know, you aren’t in this alone!

Just yesterday, I was feeling a bit of a summer cold/congestion coming over me. Nothing serious … no need for a doctor’s visit nor medication … just a day of rest with plenty of liquids and food!! A few things started filtering through … things I needed to do with the IRS … bills I need to organize like internet and cable … oh yeah … rent and food, too! I spoke with my good friend, Marie Achille, who informed me that H.E.R.O. (Humanitarian Emergency Resource Organization) is having their “Back To School” Event on Saturday, August 17th, 2013 at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center (A.A.R.L.C.C.) here in Ft. Lauderdale. I got to thinking about what I would speak on, since I have been their guest speaker for this event since the event’s inception a few years back. Last year was quite a spectacle with so many parents and children all looking to get book bags filled with supplies for the new school year which starts at the end of August in Florida.

I looked at all the issues raging in our world community from “stop the violence” to “how one should conduct oneself if being followed”. We, modern civilization today, are not the first to have issues like the aforementioned though due to cyber space, we get a good look at ALL of the issues plaguing our modern societies. It seems a bit much, most of the time … and it is. Can you pick one thing or issue to focus on and “make your own”? Would you feel like you are neglecting other issues if you chose just ONE? In many ways, that is the reason I have adopted a spiritual way of life in general. Just letting my “little light shine” wherever I go is the way I choose to tackle as many issues as I can. What are the answers? What comes to mind for me is the title of William Shakespeare’s play entitled, “Much Ado About Nothing”. Now we ALL know that this is a “play on words” and there is a double meaning, so to speak, contained in the title of the play, right?! So be it . . .

“Many could forego heavy meals, a full wardrobe, a fine house , et cetera; it is the ego they cannot forego.” – Mohandas Gandhi

…. and ….

“Look at the past as a bullet. Once it is fired it’s finished.” – Catherine Bauby

Which of these do you think I should choose as a topic for “school kids” getting ready to go back to school? While I do have some ideas for my “talk”, I would welcome any suggestions. In the meantime, enjoy your Hump Day!

Peace Out!

John I. Cook, Director

Sharing From The Heart

sharing from the heartIt’s Monday, ladies and gentlemen … girls and boys!

How is the summer going for you all? I hope that this week finds each of you with good friends and a healthy heart! It seems that I have been blessed with both more often than not! We are approaching the last days of July and preparing for the first of August. I find myself waiting patiently for some “things” to happen while I continue on with my regular routine, so to speak.

This weekend was spent with friends “just doing things” …. “sharing” even! What did we share?! Good feelings, comradery, helpful hearts, minds …. yes, even bodies! After yoga on Saturday morning, I sat with a new friend at LA Fitness. She is “new” in town and from New York, so we’ve developed kind of a friendship since she attends the yoga class on Saturday. It was pouring down rain and she and I sat inside the gym. Kelly ordered some vegan stuff on flatbread and I had my turkey and swiss cheese sandwich with a Powerade ready and with me from the previous evening! I was going to help a good friend move after yoga class, and she was going to meet some friends with whom she is in a seminar with combining accounting and yoga!! We bid each other a fond adieu, planning to meet up again this coming Saturday. The rain continued steadily!

Shortly after getting into the car, I got all my directions set to help a friend move into a nice 3rd floor one bedroom apartment in a gated community near Coral Springs and Parkland. We all were excited but the move had to be done! One of his friends, quite a bit younger than me, met his girl Krystal and I after we had picked up the rental truck. The rain had found us so we had to wait a while … as is customary with rain in the tropics, including Florida. Steve and I loaded up the truck while Krystal loaded her car with shoe boxes and smaller stuff. We met my friend, her boyfriend, Luigi at the new place once all was done. Unpacking the truck and getting everything, which wasn’t a lot, up to the third floor “penthouse” view was the second leg of the journey, which we finished nearly out of breath and dehydrated from sweating!! Luigi had gotten us water, chicken, cole slaw and potato salad, which we munched on together chatting like school kids! I didn’t get home until nearly 8 or 9pm that night. Then, I had shaved and showered and headed out to meet some more friends at The Club House aka Capone’s! We had a blast!

Sunday morning, I didn’t forget to stream my favorite service – 10:15AM – from Calvary Chapel. Assistant Pastor Fidel Gomez and Pastor Bob Coy reminded us that it was 28 years ago from this past Thursday that they had left “Vegas” driving to Fort Lauderdale to start what has become nearly a “mega church”, though much more personable. Pastor Gomez’s topic was: “You should be willing to share”. He broke it down in a way that one could understand why one works where one works, lives where one lives …. and even endures some “life challenges” ever so often, so as to develop ones gifts from God. “God put you there for a reason!”, Pastor Gomez said. A bit of clarification might sound like this: “Your ‘job’, neighborhood, encounters and friends were designed for each of us to share our peace, love and faith!” (How am I doing?!)

Sunday was a day I had promised my sports writer friend who follows the HEAT for the Sun Sentinel here in Broward that I would meet up with he and a group of his friends, including his mother and co-workers for a “birthday brunch”. We met around 12:30pm at Big City on Las Olas and had a great time together! There were two huge tables filled with friends chatting incessantly as if we wouldn’t see each other again until Shandel Richardson’s birthday came again next year! The fun thing about Shandel is that everybody that he knows gets labeled with a “famous sports figure’s” name! He calls me “Eric Dickerson” most of the time though he would agree with the name of “Prime Time” (Deion Sanders) bestowed upon me from some of the guys at the local Publix Supermarket! We even had a guy who looked like Derek Jeter from the Yankees at the table with us! His mother and one of her friends sat with us and enjoyed and contributed to the noisy Sunday birthday brunch for Shandel! It was a blast!!

Do you share your gifts with others? I have had many friends connect with me in times of need and “share” their life’s resources with me. One friend, Lisa Alari, even told me about the job that I’ve had now going on three years at Platinum Marketing Group! We had worked together doing debt settlement until our lives took us in different directions. Hopefully, you can sense by now that not only do I share from the heart, but I suggest that “us humans” make the most of this journey by doing the same! Have a great week!

Namaste,

John I. Cook, Director

P O W E R ! !

POWERHappy Friday, All!

I already said mine, as I usually do as soon as my eyes open … T.G.I.F.! Well, the weekend is upon us, depending on what your day is like today. Some folks’ work schedules gives them different “weekend” days, if you will, so maybe we can wish them well, too!

Do you know what “power” is? I mean, each of us may have a slightly different definition, based on our life experiences. But in general, power is something to be respected. Some like others to be in awe of their power, like a politician or a police officer. Maybe a body builder or a person that works with explosives. Wednesday’s piece was addressing the concept of the “spiritual power” of letting go, which takes us to a totally different plane in which to consider “power”. Have you any recollection of “power” themes or slogans in your life?! How about, “Power to the People”?! Maybe “nuclear power”?! How about “Peace Power”?! I am sure that we could go on and on … it would be a great ice breaker activity, just to name some “sources of power”, if you will!

During the “Zimmerman Trial”, I noticed that there were more people reading this blog than usual. I even got a few somewhat intellectual responses that differed from my take on it, which I permitted to be published on the Educational Excellence blog. I mean, people don’t have to always agree with me, nor I with anyone either. Yet, it is worthwhile to have thought out your reply and try to keep it “classy”, at least. Those of us who use “social media” know that you can make just as many enemies as you can make friends when you put your thoughts out there. There are some who will “interpret” your words the way “they” want and others will just attack your thoughts and ideas as if they are “omnipresent rulers of social networking”! Ha! I am sure that throughout modern/contemporary history and events, we can see “the power of the press”, right?! This is when either research, and/or healthy “gut” feelings must enter into the equation so that one is not misled by the press or have some propaganda thrust into your thought process that one is unable to “intellectually digest”, so to speak.

Another juror has spoken out regarding their decision in the Zimmerman case but is afraid for her safety to reveal her identity. I wonder about that because she has been on television news with her “real face” showing but calling herself “Mandy”. Her view point of what led the jury to their decision is indeed intriguing. Well, in the interest of “grass roots” writing and blogging, I offer any of you to do three things: 1) Feel free to respond/reply, as many have already; 2) Go to the blog page and post a comment, which, if it is not too vulgar or tasteless, I permit to be published for all to see; and, 3) Pass me on to friends, family and associates. I am one who sticks to my guns, so to speak, and Educational Excellence is an entity close to my heart and my talents and God-given gifts.

Consider your interpretation of power as we know it. Be prepared to modify it or tailor it. Also be able to accept other types or definitions of power … And please, don’t forget the “power of peace”!

“The lust for power is not rooted in strength but in weakness.” – Erich Fromm

Today, I will let go of my grasping for more. I will let go of it again and again throughout the day so I am not ruled by this weakness. (TOUCHSTONES, July 26)

Have a great weekend!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Letting Go

Letting GoIt’s Hump Day again, y’all!

“It seems life is full of twists and turns …” Anyone heard that before? It comes from a poem (“Just Don’t Quit!”) that is integral to a “12 Step Program”. While we feel that strength and power lies in our ability to “hold on” to something, or get more of another “something”, it also may involve “letting go” of some things, perhaps!

Each of us is unique in one way or another … maybe even in many ways. Yet, we each are similar in many more ways. Often times, we get “caught up” in the differences, especially if it makes us “look” better or superior to another human being. In my opinion, this is the perfect time to “share” (I didn’t say “give”!) your knowledge or possessions with others. We can share a good feeling … good thoughts … maybe even a “good way” to get through something. This requires a certain awareness of “humanness”, if you will, that all of us are more similar than we are different.

Have you ever experienced feeling down, or grappling with a challenging situation, and … along comes someone or “something” to point out to you how far down you are (or “below” them, perhaps) and offer no encouragement?! How does that make you feel? Some of us have encountered those situations so often that we just don’t give a damn about anything or anyone … not even ourselves!! You may encounter people like that. Or, there are others who are always on “the take” – meaning, “What can I get from you before you realize that I have it and am gone!?” Life, with its twists and turns, often “offers” that approach to those in such challenging situations. We each must be well aware of our choices.

There is a certain amount of strength … spiritual strength, if you will … required in “letting go”. In my opinion, again, this does not mean “trashing” or “destroying” what we thought we “had”. But, it means to simply let it go. Many humans have issues with possessing things … or people … or relationships … even jobs or homes and cars. Occasionally, I contemplate what it must be like to do that final “Let Go” when our lives have truly expired. Don’t get me wrong … there is a difference between “letting go” and “giving up”. Yet, for me anyway, I have had to learn to let go of things that were not growth producing for me … even challenging things can produce growth from time to time. This requires a certain amount of wisdom, peace and spiritual maturity. Just some thoughts of mine for today!

Have a wonderful Wednesday, All!

Be well,

John I. Cook, Director

Peace! Be Still!

Peace Be StillGood Monday morning, All!

I trust each of you had a fair weekend, especially if you are able to read this message, as I am able to write it! As this country attempts to adjust to a variety of events that have taken place since last year around this time, it seems (much like when Obama was elected … and then a second time, too!) “people” are coming out of the woodwork, so to speak, to express either a lackadaisical attitude regarding the murder of young Mr. Martin or approval of what Mr. Zimmerman did! I am working hard at “forgiving” Mr. Zimmerman, as it adds to the healing process, and, simultaneously trying to “teach”, so to speak, about what went wrong.

Well, yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting up with my Brahma Kumaris family that are here locally in South Florida. I encourage you, if interested, to look them up. They are a “spiritual world university” whose base is in India. There are many Americans who are members as well as yogis of the organization. There is a facility in New York where workshops training leadership for the group as well as folks from businesses world-wide go there for “retreats” of various designs. While I haven’t been there, I have spoken to and remain in contact with people who have. There was a “World Peace Meditation” held in Arts Park here in Hollywood, FL, which is a beautiful “free” venue. I hadn’t visited Hollywood Blvd. in some time since moving from the neighboring city of Pembroke Pines nearly 5 or 6 years ago. It is beautiful, not to mention the flora and upkeep and maintaining the landscape there in the park. It was quite a fine group of folk who had one thing in mind, not to mention … amongst others, in common – world peace! Sounds overwhelming, right?! Good, because that is exactly what it is. It requires a group effort starting with each individual “spirit” on this planet. There is no “world peace” medication nor class that one can take … it is a movement that begins with each individual seeking it. Hopefully, as I do as often as I can, “your little light will shine”!

The event began with a demonstration of “Qigong”, which focuses on harnessing the natural “chi” energy contained within each human soul. It (chi and components of “qigong”), can be traced as far back as Confucius in his analysis of the human creature. It is also a central part of the martial arts which focuses on that same “chi” energy found in meditation! Believe it … or not! We had a chance to sit in a semi-circle there on the grass (one gent even offered me an extra chair that he had brought with him!) as Ella introduced the program for “World Peace”, followed by an opening comment and meditation from Ganga. A few years back, I had spent a couple of days with Ganga in her home there in Miramar, FL learning about the central concepts of The Brahma Kumaris Spiritual World University as well as its founder and the origins of the movement there in India. Her talk was quite tranquil as she presented a story of a bird who tried to put out a brush fire by carrying the few drops of water that it could … from the ocean in its beak to the fire. An ‘angel’ viewed the concerned bird and brought a storm to assist the little creature! …. That could be each of us!

Ganga’s talk was followed by a meditation led by Yogi Alex, whom I met several years ago at The Brahma Kumaris Centre in Coral Gables, FL when they gave me an opportunity to talk on my two books aligned with the topic of “Ordinary People Who Are Extra Ordinary”. It was an eye opening experience for me … I thank the organization again. The meditation was filled with silence … peace …. focus …. as the tranquil music coming from the two elevated speakers danced on the evening air intermingled intermittently with Alex’s voice as he led the meditation! I sat in awe at how enthralling and captivating the meditation was. At the end, we made a circle holding hands and finished with several community “oms” which stem from the greeting, “Om Shanti”. I also had a chance to say hello to Roz, a dear friend who keeps me informed of the group’s activities and locations; Meredith Porte who works with WLRN and is a part of this e-mail family (Thanks!); and Etta – also one of the first people whom I met with the group!

Wouldn’t it be nice to carry this same “peace” with you each day, fortified by the power of “chi”?! If you haven’t noticed already, it is something that I personally truly embrace …. and advocate. Peace! Be still!

Om shanti,

John I. Cook, Director

Peaceful Warrior

Peaceful WarriorHappy Friday, All!

I would dare to say that most of you are with me to T.G.I.F.! Wow!! It’s been a long week in the aftermath of the “Not Guilty” verdict of George Zimmerman. One more kid, like thirteen, was shot by an elderly white neighbor in Milwaukee who accused the black teen of stealing two of his shotguns!! What?!? The gun toting man waited for the thirteen year old boy to empty the trash, and, as the teen was taking his trash receptacle back with a couple of puppy dogs dancing around him, the old man came out! The boy’s mother, who apparently heard the voices going back and forth, came to the door just in time to see her son chased, run backwards and receive a fatal shot to his body!! The man was found guilty!

While I am “over” hearing the multiple versions of what Trayvon must’ve done as well as attacks on his character and Rachel Jeantel’s character, I do see the need for these conversations that permeate this country and the planet. Just a few years ago, I had come to the conclusion that humans have entered a realm of “self destruction” on many facets of “life” as we know it today. Now, I haven’t traveled ALL over the world, but, from Colombia to England, even Spain and Canada, I have noticed a different temperament amongst the people that live in each area or part of the world. At one point or another, it (life) was being reduced to self destructive tendencies to some degree or another. It’s like “we” are on a collision course with “self destruction” … and some people could care less!

Yesterday was Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday, which he spent in the hospital still recovering from what seems to be a pulmonary infection. I had found a picture of him in his youth dressed in his traditional garb, looking rather stately and somewhat warrior-like. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a plethora of peaceful warriors like Nelson today?! Who are our leaders today and where are they leading us? Can they change the collision course we seem to be on towards “self destruction”? Last night, I watched Anderson Cooper’s program followed by Piers Morgan’s program. Each tried to engage “leaders” in a conversation regarding race and violence and the judicial system in this country. There were a variety of people, including Sabryna and Tracy – Trayvon’s parents; one of the men from the “Central Park 5” – a group of black and hispanic then teens who were coerced into pleading guilty to a rape of a white woman in 1989 jogging in Central Park; as well as a couple of clergy people (one who literally went “nuts” on the program!). A male clergy member accused Trayvon of being a “thug” and called Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson “race pimps” on live television during Piers Morgan’s show! He was an African American male, whom the other guests asked Piers, “Where did you get this guy from?”. Finally, after he had interrupted the other guests multiple times, Piers had to “shut him down”, broadcast journalist style, and finally end the show.

Also included in the line up of the Piers Morgan Show was the sister of Ron Goldman, the man who was slain with OJ Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole, that culminated in the “OJ Simpson Murder Trial”. Kim Goldman said that the problem today is not so much “race” as it is the lack of respect for human life in general. She, too, thought the Zimmerman verdict was accurate, given the facts and information. She did say that she could understand Trayvon’s parents seeking closure through a civil (and possibly, a federal hate crime) case, as her family did. Her final comments were, “We don’t have enough love in the world, that’s all ….” If the weather permits, I will go to Art Park in Hollywood, FL on Sunday at 6:00PM for “World Peace Day” sponsored by the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual World University.

When faced with controversies nowadays, won’t we all try to seek to be the “peaceful warrior”?! Have a great day, a wonderful weekend, and thanks so very very much for reading.

Namaste,

John I. Cook, Director

The Smear Campaign

smear campaignYes, it’s “Hump Day” again … a bit rainy here in South Florida. You know, the rain helps to cleanse the Earth of the dirt and debris and leaves the terrain with a somewhat fresh feeling, nearly a botanical scent from time to time. Perhaps, that’s what we need after exposing the filth that went into smearing the image of a 17 year old young man whose “family” is much like many average American families.

Have you ever had someone or an institution attempt to “smear” your image … or the image of someone else … like the POTUS Obama? How about the image of an ethnic group? It is a time consuming endeavor to cover up the “truth”! Those with less desire to know the truth, or those with less intelligence and/or energy to distinguish the truth often fall prey to the “smear campaign”, like the one launched by George Zimmerman’s defense team. It can go to the low level that Donald Trump “tried” when he said that Obama did NOT have an American birth certificate!! I mean, some “dummies” actually embraced that as a reason for impeaching or disqualifying President Obama from holding office! How do you think he finished his studies and held office in Illinois, and, of course, submitted the “proper paperwork” to be selected as a candidate of the Democratic Party to run for the office of POTUS?! Trump actually exposed the ignorance of those formerly “closed door” racists as did the Zimmerman verdict for many unsuspecting souls!!

The defense sought to use the “smear technique” to discredit testimonies by people like Rachel Jeantel, even Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon! O’Mara sought to “throw” more debris on “the truth” so that those with less intellectual capacity would not be able to discover it … the truth, that is! Now, Rush Limbaugh wants to use the “n-word” ending in “a” because Rachel Jeantel, a 19 year old Haitian American girl from Miami Gardens, FL and Trayvon Martin used that word in their conversation just before he was murdered by George Zimmerman! Now, here is a clear racist, trying to find leverage to use one of the most offensive terms in American English, as if he is a teenager from Miami Gardens. Most “dummies” won’t see that, while other “dummies” (whom I’ve had my share of encountering) will use the excuse that “they call each other that, why can’t I?!” Some neighborhoods in America have been guarded and protected and more isolated from others so that there is little to no understanding of the life styles that permeate certain neighborhoods. According to juror “B-37”, “George has a good heart. He wanted to get one of those people responsible for the break ins in his neighborhood. He just went a little too far!” That was probably the ONLY statement that this juror, whom four others distanced themselves from, made in her entire interview that displayed “normal human logic”! Peace be still . . . She and her husband’s book deal was also aborted!!

O’Mara and “Knock Knock” ( what a freakin’ idiot! ), who BOTH look like “gate keepers to Hell”, successfully buried the truth and made it nearly impossible for the prosecution to ” … prove without a shadow of a doubt …” that Zimmerman committed 2nd degree murder or manslaughter! In fact, the truth of the matter is that they threw enough “garbage and debris” onto the “truth” that the prosecution was unable to literally “unearth” it!! It’s a game … An outdated law brought into a state, as well as 29 other ones, that has actually precipitated more violence and deaths than it was aimed at eliminating or avoiding!!! With all of the human hostilities and fragile personalities that exist in our “world” today, not only in this country, “stand your ground” has become a law that gives certain people the license to kill. It also gives, as is the case with a black Tampa man who recently shot and killed a white neighbor who was actually reported as trying to take the gun away from the black Tampa man, now jailed and prevented from using “stand your ground” as defense, the courts the right to lock someone up for defending themselves! A black woman who had been subjected to domestic violence for some time who also had an “order of protection” against her abusive husband, merely fired warning shots in her own home so that her abusive husband would let her leave. She was denied the use of “stand your ground” and given a jail sentence of 20 years … and no one died!!! Is this justice … or … as we used to say back in the day of the boycotts of speakers like then Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan at Princeton University … is it “just us”!!??

This case has generated so much criticism, as well as the “use” of “stand your ground”/self defense laws, that US Attorney General Eric Holder has denounced it publically as a troublesome law being used to unjustly “dispose of” members of the African American community … either into a cemetery … or a jail cell! In closing, I can only say that I am proud of the plethora of peaceful demonstrations that oppose the “Not Guilty” verdict rendered in Sanford, FL, and, while I make no excuses for the Oakland, CA near riot due to the historically horrific relationship between the justice system there and the “black community”, I can understand it to a degree. “Stand your ground” has become the core of “legal lynchings” as well as a mechanism to dispose of unwanted African Americans into the stifling penal institutions of this nation. Even Newt Gingrich stated his contempt for the “prison philosophy” during Anderson Cooper’s “AC 360” program last night indicating that it, too, needs to be completely overhauled … believe it, or not!

Have a great Hump Day! Live to learn … and learn to live … in peace!

Namaste,

John I. Cook, Director

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