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

Wouldn’t You Rather Know?!

Jesus Knows

It’s Monday ….

Yes, another gift to each of us able to read this. Please try not to take these days for granted. Yes, I just celebrated a birthday and it gave rise to a bit of reflection that I hadn’t anticipated. I wanted to have a quiet birthday, friends to be around for a while, and time for myself to see how I had grown, and, to select the next steps. One person amongst the many who wished me a happy birthday stated it as being a “true new year” . . . believe it . . . or not! Very interesting way of looking at things, I might add, like ones own birthday.

This topic comes from the idea that there is so much going on nowadays, so much information being disseminated and so much to choose from to “believe”, that it gets overwhelming from time to time. It is in those precise moments, one should “know oneself” . . . what one may do in certain circumstances. It is where the main logo of Educational Excellence comes in, to know thyself, so you can make a good well thought out decision in the midst of a crisis! Not only that, but what makes you “tick”, so to speak?! I am sure that most of the readers here know what makes me tick, as I am doing it right now, and some of you are reading . . . right now! Thanks so much! Things that are close to my heart and are worth sharing with others who may have similar hearts, be they (persons) understood or not. We all like to understand things that are important to us, so, I would rather “know”!

I have watched this new program called “The Sixties” being presented on one of the networks and this past weekend’s one blew me away! They have had specials on “The Beatles”, a popular music group from England who took America by storm at that time. I even saw one focusing on the assassination of JFK, which was heart-wrenching when they replayed the videotape of the side of his head being blown away that day in Dallas, TX! This past weekend showed incredible footage of “The Freedom Riders”, who rode buses in to local terminals to stage non-violent protests against segregation practices in the Deep South like Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee! This footage showed them practice “sit ins” at lunch counters and entering previously “White Only!” entrances and locations. Then, they showed the footage of angry mobs of whites armed with steel pipes and baseball bats waiting for the group of mixed youth – white, black, hispanic, Jew and gentile – getting attacked by these weapon-wielding mobs! As I watched the footage of them being beaten, I actually held different parts of my body as I visualized what that must have been like!!! Unarmed youth being attacked in this manner seemed at least “barbaric” … here in our America … just fifty years ago!!! Segregation was ultimately ended after federal troops were called into certain cities that challenged the permeation of the Jim Crow laws as African Americans sought to vote, attend colleges and integrate public schools … here in “our” America … just fifty short years ago. I was ten . . . I remember when . . . just fifty short years ago.

Segregation is now illegal and true, there has been an African American in the White House for nearly 8 years now! All of this, may we never forget, literally built upon by the blood and broken bones, the humiliating beatings and torturings and ultimate death of many of these “Freedom Riders” … just fifty short years ago. I am humbled and promise that in this “new year” of my life to continue to advocate peace, in as many circles as possible, as well as seek to raise the consciousness of those affiliated with Educational Excellence. God willing, I may even get this third book done this second half of 2014 . . . just saying!

Have a great day, don’t take it for granted, and be kind to each other!


John I. Cook

“The Drama Is Perfect!”

my birthday

Happy Friday, All!

It is quite a special one for me … for various reasons. May I be so humble as to say T.G.I.F.?! So, there … I did it!! How about you? Now, you can say what you want, but I don’t know many … correction … ANY people who created themselves, you dig?! There is a power greater than any one of us … perhaps … even all of us together!

As I approach another birthday, do the math if you wish, it is pretty impressive for me! I mean, I have always been a “hopeless romantic” of sorts, and, not just with relationships … but with LIFE! In other words, I have always believed that people can “all get along” if we simply adopt a different set of values as paramount guide for how we should live. The competition, the strife often yields to disrespect and pret’ near narcissism. People don’t seem to know how to handle the “element of competition” that originally was designed to heighten excellence. But nowadays, the competition is so acute, that one human thinks “it” is better than another human for rather superficial reasons. We take education, we take money, we take property … and make it a “god”! We will sacrifice our children, our parents, our health or values … just to say we “won” something or we have “more of something” than another human being! To me, this is not so romantic.

Over the years, I have learned and grown … and continue to remain humble enough to be teachable … to coexist with just about any other human being on the Earth. There are more types of people I may still need to “meet”, so to speak, before I can say that I have passed that test! Yet, I keep an open mind … This is the core of my romanticism … co-existence. Yet, when I look around and see how humans have gotten wrapped up in “out doing”, damaging … even killing each other … romantic ideas get challenged. As I have improved my own spirituality, I am better equipped to handle “the drama”! There were times when I had romanticized parenthood, friendship and yes … co-existence. Now, I KNOW that there is much disappointment in store for anyone who doesn’t embrace the simple fact that “the drama is perfect”! Now, I have borrowed this phrase from a person who has become a dear friend whom I met through other “friends” with the Brahma Kumaris. They never asked me to convert to anything nor read any book or accept anyone as my god. I first met Marianne Weiss at a job interview and she informed me of the existence of the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual World University and I began to meet other people. I was given the opportunity to do a book review of both of my books at the Miami Center of the BK through networking with Marianne. Soon, I met Roz Reich, who is still a member of the Educational Excellence e-mail family, and she reached out to me since we live in Broward County. I even took a weekend “foundations course” with Ganga at her home in Miramar, FL for perhaps 6 hours when she took time to explain the major component of the BK. I didn’t feel threatened, nor pressured … nor brainwashed to think or believe anything! I attended several weekend meditations and began to embrace my spiritual self. They taught me Raja yoga meditation techniques and I also embraced that.

This coming Sunday, on my birthday, the finals of the FIFA World Cup will be taking place … and … I am planning to attend a beach meditation in Hollywood with the BK Hollywood meditation group. I am excited, and, I suspect that the full moon rising is no coincidence to my 60th birthday!!! I am humbled and honored, grateful and proud, focused and spiritual. The journey is continuing to unfold, and, as Roz said a few weeks ago … “the drama is perfect”!


John I. Cook

“Watch What You Say . . . “

See No Evil

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

So far, how has your week been? Me … I AM … I am feeling very grateful! It’s my birthday week … though it is officially on Sunday, the 13th of July! Many many folks have already started wishing me a Happy Birthday, but, if you haven’t, you can wait until Sunday! No worries!

Have you ever seriously thought about what you say … BEFORE you say it? Do you ever think that you can say whatever hurtful, harmful … even racist or sexist thing you want to say?! Who are you … again?! Trust me, over the years, I have learned to purify my thoughts … about people … places … and things! Even MYSELF! But most folks don’t get that! What you say about OTHERS is a reflection of your true self! In come the “big mouths” who yell and scream and talk about everybody … EXCEPT themselves! “Oh! We have freedom of speech in America!” “Oh! We have the ‘stand your ground’ laws to back us up!” Or … “I am a policeman, I say what I want!” … “I am a lawyer/public defender ….” YOU just got fired for a racist rant on Facebook!!!

Here in Broward County, the Public Defender, Howard Finkelstein, has just fired two “public defenders” who posted rants on Facebook about “Palestinians”. Now before you get your panties stuck all up in that place, keep in mind that I am not judging nor taking sides. Yet, I am saying what I think, too … not just reporting on a story surrounding ethics! It is interesting how some people just say anything about anyone anywhere and anytime! Did I miss anything?! These two “assistant public defenders” represent “the people”, and, that is ALL people! So, can they just start talking about folks as if they are “untouchables”? (No pun intended here) I had the pleasure of meeting Howard one day several years ago when I had more business in the Broward County Courthouse than I’d like to admit! I had a problem with “law enforcement” representatives who were just doing what they wanted … as if they were untouchable. They worked for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, and, were doing whatever they wanted to do! After seeking legal help in various law offices, I went to Howard and he told me that the “monstrosity” I was dealing with is difficult to challenge! I had to “eat” some months of my life that they literally took away. The ramifications of that “theft” has been one of the greatest challenges in my life … comparable to graduating from Princeton University … if not MORE challenging!!!

These two “men” ranted on Facebook comparing Palestinians to “cockroaches” and “the swine that they don’t eat” as if there would be a great number of people “liking” their hostility, in particular, their public display of hostility … WHILE being assistant “public defenders”. Some of you may remember different pieces that I’ve written where I applaud my father (RIP) for teaching me to respect others, and, not … NOT to say any and everything that came to my mind!! Some people talk about LeBron James as if they “know” him or as if he is a “bad person”!!! Oh my!!! Wouldn’t some of us like to have HIS problems … like … where will I play professional basketball next season!!? Some folks can’t even play basketball, and, if they grew up in his circumstances … fatherless and in a home with a single mom … would NOT “make it”, according to society’s values, the way he did … and is still doing! Now, don’t get me wrong … I don’t worship ANY human being, but I do find the good things in people who have accomplished good things in their life to emulate and “talk about”! “Any old dog can bark!”

Howard Finkelstein is a most reputable person whose job is extremely difficult in the controversial Broward County Courthouse! Yet, he sought to educate all those under his department yesterday to inform them of their code of behaviour even if they are “assistant public defenders” and who work for the public defenders office! I think most of them got it … “Watch what you say …” You can complete that sentence any way you like!

Have a great Hump Day and a wonderful rest o’ the week, me lads and lassies!


John I. Cook

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