The Quest for Peace

peace justice

Happy Hump Day, y’all!

It seems like the days are going by slowly at first when the week starts, then … WHAM!! … the weekend is upon us again!! Have you been enjoying your summer vacations?! Well, maybe just enjoying summer and … taking that vacation when you can?! The latter is more like what I experience from time to time. Now, I’m not complaining either ’cause I like to work … as long as I can! I remember when my father was “toying” with the idea of retirement before his bone marrow cancer became full blown … He always liked to work, and work he did often … weekends and nights sometimes, even. This was the guy who took life in leaps and strides as he sought to raise his family with my mother … in peace.

Last night was the last class with a wonderful client I have had the pleasure of working with – Daniel Nehdar. It was a client sent through divine direction, if you will. I always add “if you will” because it may be some of us reading may not agree, which is fine with me. “We can agree to disagree!” as some of the most famous philosophs often did … if we are mature enough spiritually! This was essentially an opportunity for me to hone my skills, though I often just open up to my “higher power” for direction while I bring my “people skills” and general knowledge to the table. In our last class last night, we discussed the on-going fighting in the Middle East as well as in the Russian/Ukraine area. In exchanging reports we’ve heard, it seems that the bombing there in the Gaza Strip area and Israel will be continuing for a while. Can we stop it?? Can you stop it?? … the violence, that is … When the fight isn’t even ours??! I guess we have to hope that “THEY” can stop themselves, though the reports look bleak. Daniel and I both agreed that this will be a hard sought after “quest for peace”, if anything at all …

Perhaps, we have to settle for “their” inability to find peaceful coexistence there. Perhaps … we have to settle for the scribbling of swastikas on temples in Miami … Maybe, we have to settle for the painting of words like “Hamas” on vehicles of Palestinians living in the USA … Miami in particular. Enter, personal peace. What?!? Yes, personal peace. We can’t always make “the other party” accept peace when that is all we may be seeking. One can’t even convince another that one is genuinely peaceful through conversation or writing them. One can hardly convince another person of anything, let alone peace. In our last session, Daniel presented a speech which he wrote completely by himself, and, delivered it to me. His words were rather mature and insightful for a youngster, a teenager at that. In his words flowed his own self concept, which he says improved tremendously through our sessions of reading, writing, current events, essays and planning activities. I was so impressed at his words, and charged him to continue along this path he has charted out for himself. I also told him how wonderful his father, David, is and how he and I worked together to get the proper course of study to get Daniel ready for this upcoming school year and his move with his family to a new state and city. The moments of parting were rather emotional … the memories are permanent … as we all embraced our miraculous meeting and the divine direction our friendship has taken. I charged Daniel to continue. He said he would.

This peace thing I talk about, as well as so many others, may seem worthless in a world where wars are waged for “a misunderstanding” or “a disagreement”, not to mention different approaches to life. Can we “live and let live”? Or do we humans have to meddle in each others affairs until “we” find an excuse for war??? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could complete this “quest for peace” … if only within ourselves?! I charge each of you with that … for homework, if you will! Have a great Hump Day … and … be at peace with one another.


John I. Cook


Alternatives To War


Happy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well. I don’t know about you all but these summer time songs are killing me! But in a good way. I remember how the music industry focused on seasonal songs and one of the most popular seasons is summer time. From “Summer Madness” by Kool and the Gang and “Summer Time” by Will Smith to some of the more modern trend setting summer time songs! Yes, yesterday felt like it is truly summer time!

In watching news segments and some of my favorite shows, I came across a program mentioned on “60 Minutes” about taking kids who have met some of life’s greatest challenges before turning 18 and giving them a chance at a crash course in business. It was very interesting to see the donations of millions of dollars going in to making these “wayward” youngsters a part of a program that re-integrates them in to society in the business world! Yet, the more impacting story is that over one hundred years ago, “The War to End All Wars” aka World War I got into full swing as one country after another invaded still another as the “rise of nationalism” was taking hold in Europe. New types of warfare had been introduced including weaponry and tactics. Trench warfare had become popular as well as the use of tanks and explosives on the war front. While I have never been one to want to serve in the armed forces, I still have an abundance of respect for them. I just wish that we could think of some alternatives to war.

As your summers continue, enjoy the freedom and the blessings of family and friends and perhaps, one by one, we can think of alternatives to war . . . As always, let me know if you would like to be removed from this e-mail listing.


John I. Cook

“The Journey Continues . . .”

Live love learn

It’s Friday, y’all!

What does that mean to you?! Well for me, as soon as my eyes opened up, I said: “Thank you!” Now that I am seated here with each of you, I’ll simply state: “T.G.I.F.”! What about you?!? How do YOU do it in the waking hours?!? Well, thanks for reading by all means.

There were some days lately, and it still happens now and then, where I just didn’t know how things were going to go for me. I mean, I would resolve one issue, and then here comes like three more! Now when I say issue, I mean something that would occupy my thought processes for some time, maybe more than I wanted … to spend thinking about it or dealing with it. Nowadays, I really have to care about something a lot to put all of my energy into resolving it. Yet, as I attempt to handle each situation with tact and calm, there are those moments where I still feel rather helpless (NOT hopeless!). Then I remember, “The Journey Continues . . .”

“Everyone once, once only. Just once and no more. And we also once. Never again. But this having been once, although only once, to have been of the earth, seems irrevocable.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Do you know the difference between helpless and hopeless? I am not sure either but the first one keeps me at peace, especially when I say The Serenity Prayer, because then I know that I cannot control ALL things … Nor, do I know ALL things … Yet, I never lose hope, which is the belief in the unseen. May we each go forward today, knowing that this is the “once” that Rainer Maria Rilke is talking about. It is today … it is every day … that you can open your eyes!


John I. Cook

“Never Can Say Good-Bye . . .”

Baldwin Bye

Happy Hump Daaaaayyy, YEAH!!!

Another Wednesday visits us and we must let it in … in to our lives, that is! I always enjoy a good song with a good melody, and of course, excellent lyrics are paramount for me. Often, I prefer the music with NO lyrics so I can “think what I think”! Yet, a tune like “Never Can Say Good-bye!” is a classic that has been done by singer and jazz master alike. The love ballad rings so true when one is having a relationship or friendship that is just what the doctor ordered, so to speak!

So, many of you know that I have started the tutoring component of Educational Excellence up again. The free lance writing for newspapers that I did like the “MiamiTimesOnLine” hit a barrier once my only contact left their publishing house and moved to the Maryland area. While keeping the blog going and these posts, I was fortunate enough to be referred to a tutoring component by my landlord, Mitchell. It has given me the opportunity to network with clients looking for tutors for subjects ranging from guitar playing to preparation for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) examination to life skills, if you will. I have had a few students come and go, for various reasons. Yet, there is one student out of the two “long term-ers” whose family and me just “gelled”, so to speak. At first the father, of Iranian descent, had contacted me because he felt something “spiritual” when he looked at my photograph in my WyzAnt portfolio. We talked a bit, he informed me of what he and his son were looking for in a tutor, and I offered a visit to meet he and his family, including the dog, “Coqui”, before formal sessions were to start. It was like magic!! We all fell in love with each other … including the dog, “Coqui”! What a wonderful feeling … what a wonderful world!

So, the father’s business is taking him to South Carolina and they have purchased a new home there and are tying up the last items at their home. The father, David, is such a warm soul. He not only gave me a Japanese made kimono (robe), but also offered to give me … yes … give me … some fantastic birch wood furniture!! Every Tuesday evening and Saturday morning, Daniel and I would meet to discuss current events, write essays, talk about places he and his lovely family, including his charming mother from Paraguay and his two talented sisters, had traveled to. Our first few meetings seemed to go by like a blur as we traveled thousands of spiritual miles into each others lives, honing and tweaking English writing skills, including vocabulary and grammar, as well as touching on some heart warming topics like “family”. In fact, Daniel’s final essay is about “What He Likes About His Family”! Almost sounds like my senior thesis for Princeton’s sociology department, “A Critique of Studies of the Black Family”. We had talked about meeting up and doing something, Daniel and me, but his mother had the best idea of all – “Guess who is staying for dinner?!” Yep, it was me! We had a fantastic shrimp scampi dinner last night … their whole family together around the dining room table … and ME, and of course, “Coqui”!!! Daniel will be entering his last year or so of high school in South Carolina and his sisters, Camilla and Sophia, have identified ballet programs and soccer programs, respectively. Dinner last night was something from the divine … spiritually imbibing, if you will! I felt so appreciated as the father, David, held a toast to “our” meeting.

The last class is Saturday morning … and … I … “never can say good-bye”!


John I. Cook

It’s Alright!

It's Alright

Happy Monday, All …

Yes, I know … I had a restful wonderful sleep last night, too! Thankful for that. Yet, upon waking up this morning, I had to tell myself, “Oh, it’s alright!” Nothing in particular, and, everything at the same time. It’s just one of those days, folks!

The interview on blog radio with Franklin Lewis on “Donnyds Words of Wisdom” Saturday night went well. In fact, Raphael Ventura Rosa sent me an e-mail afterwards saying that he had heard the program and that we should do a follow up. My old college chum running partner Vetalle Fusilier out of DC said he had heard the last few minutes of it, too. Though the link was posted on my Facebook page, I had a challenge getting the recording to “roll”. Maybe you will have more luck if you want to listen to it. Still, thank you guys for your support.

As the summer days continue to come and go, I began to pay more attention to how I spend my spare time. Now, it is not a lot of spare time, but I try to spend it doing some simple things for myself. Maybe reading or writing, even walking around the beach as I did yesterday afternoon. A good friend, Stokely, is in town and we decided to get together a week or so after his mother’s passing, and, as they try to tie things up. So, we cruised the Strip with the top down in his car listening to some tunes on the radio. Once we had found a parking space, we walked around the area near Las Olas and A-1-A, even Beach Place, and so many people were out enjoying themselves. I remember how we used to spend the summers in White Plains when I was growing up and it was always a treat to go to a swimming pool and even more radical to go to the beach! Many of my summers were spent either working or in summer camp in Upstate New York or at the Salvation Army’s Summer Programs, The City of White Plains Parks and Recreation Dept. activities and some weekend days at Saxon Woods Public Pool! Now I have the chance to go to the beach so very often … and it’s FREE … except for parking!!!

Maybe if you start your Monday out with a little mantra like, “It’s alright!”, everything will indeed, be alright! Don’t make it too complicated today. Just enjoy the simple fact that we are alive today.

Be well!


John I. Cook

Sometimes, We Have to Take Our Time . . .

take your time

Happy Friday, y’all …

I’m still going to say T.G.I.F. though it is tough for me today. Just watching the news … for what it is worth … is so crazy that I am like wondering how much worse can this massive turmoil and violence go on … and spread, even?! Can it be that a passenger plane got shot out of the sky by a military strength missile?!? And it was true that three teens were kidnapped from Israel by who claimed to be the Hamas terrorist organization??! … and then killed!! And then Israeli police beat three other teens for purportedly throwing projectiles at them. The Palestinian kid from Tampa is back home now. And people are leaving kids in their cars . . . while they go to work … or a beauty salon … or a casino?!? I mean, what has happened to priorities in this world … or have we lost them completely or mostly … or whatever!! Let’s wish Nelson Mandela a Happy Birthday, then …

I’ve been feeling rather quirky as I try to “figure some things out” but not a worried type of quirkiness. As I look around the wider world, I get a bit melancholy. I wonder if we’ll snap out of some of the things that are clearly wrong out here. I don’t have the answers for anyone except myself and … I wonder about those sometimes!!! Well, I am still planning on hanging around and doing some things, maybe making things better, and make a difference until my number is called!! In fact, this Saturday, I mentioned this already … I will be doing a blog radio interview with Franklin Lewis who will be out in Los Angeles. We go on at 8pm Pacific Time and 11pm EST … East coast … and if you want to listen or comment, feel free to chime in at: 646-595-3338. I haven’t done one of these interviews in a while, and, thanks to Ms. Elecia James again, who connected Mr. Lewis and me, I get to do it again! It’s the little things that keep me happy …. And uh … thanks for reading!


John I. Cook

The Side Effects Are Worse Than The Symptoms!

More Side Effects

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

As if I hadn’t noticed … it’s Wednesday already! Seems like it was just Monday yesterday … Silly, right?! Sometimes, the days run together and appear to pick up velocity even!! Of course, that can’t be possible. But, it could be because we are doing what we like to do!!! And, that thing we like to do is something we are good at, and, it doesn’t hurt people! In fact, it may even help a few folks! That’s how I always felt when I taught classes with 30 or so students in my classes at White Plains High School! But let me tell you something, amongst that group of “former students” have come some of the best, coolest, most progressive young people I’ve ever met. Some of them are now parents, musicians, police officers, business persons … even writers and broadcasters! I am pretty sure that they like what they do. How about you?!?

Over the past few years, as I continue to mature, and even thinking back to my mother’s bout with Alzheimer’s Disease, I have noticed that elderly folks rely so much on medications and their life lines are almost if not completely linked to the pharmaceutical industry. Most of us know the history and the power of “Big Pharm” aka the pharmaceutical industry, and how so much money is wrapped up in to it. Yet, many of us kind of ignore the side effects of this industry’s “products”!!! When I hear a commercial for erectile dysfunction where the stuff you’re supposed to take “…. may lead to internal bleeding, headaches, diarrhea, vomiting and partial paralysis …”, I am like “Whaaaat?!! Do I REALLY want to take this?!” Society is very much the same, folks. Okay, so … you had an argument with your spouse and the police were called?! Okay, “we” are going to give you 2 years probation and adjudication withheld!! Something similar may happen again in that time … with your ex-wife or her new boyfriend … or to a “friend of her friend” … and you were involved!!! Now, you’ve got a “criminal background”!!! The penal institutions are also “an industry”, in case you haven’t noticed. And, indeed, the side effects are worse than the symptoms!!! One is scarred for LIFE!!! Enter “self definition” …. and you’ve got to be good at this!

Many of you know that I have self-published two books, and you can find them below this message by clicking on the link to the “Know Thyself” website. (If you are on this blog page, go to “Publications” above.) Both books focus on the “side effects” of the industry of penal institutions. And that is just from MY point of view, which is very “advantaged”, so to speak! I feel sorry for the people who can’t get a job after some criminal activity, as society calls it, and resort to MORE criminal activity to survive in a capitalist country where they have been excluded from participation … because of their previous “criminal activity” … and they are often forced back into this said activity!!! I had a conversation the other day about the challenges that I face and how one “can’t believe” that I struggle with gainful employment over TEN YEARS after completing my “treatment”/(punishment) as issued by society … and am STILL excluded from “gainful employment”!!! Believe it … or not!

Saturday evening at 11PM EST/8PM PT, I will be doing a blog radio interview with Mr. Franklin Lewis out of Los Angeles, California to discuss my first book, “From the Projects to Princeton”. I still haven’t lost sight of my goal to write my third book in spite of obstacles and obligations!! Yet, Ms. Elicia James, a former student from White Plains, has connected me with Franklin Lewis, a blog talk radio producer, so that we may do a revitalization talk focusing on my journey, “From the Projects to Princeton”. You can listen in by dialing: “6465953338” at 11PM sharp EST this Saturday coming! I will remind you all, and feel free to inquire further with me! In the meantime, watch those side effects, folks!!!


John I. Cook

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