Forty years ago, the first “Star Wars” film arrived on movie screens around the world.
The movie changed my life!
The first Star Wars film “A New Hope” in part told the story of the first great adventure of Luke Skywalker and his introduction to the ways of the “Force” while studying with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Skywalker studied with Kenobi briefly before the elder Jedi met his demise (or transcendence) during a light saber battle with Darth Vader aboard the Death Star. And of course, Luke Skywalker uses the Force later to destroy the 100-mile wide battle station at the end of this milestone film.
And the first and subsequent viewings of Star Wars forever changed my orientation towards spiritual life. It was, in fact, a re-awakening to the mystical life and spiritual work that I had known in highly likely previous lifetimes as a monk and contemplative.
I could no longer accept the orthodox religious tradition as it was presented to me via the local religious institutions my family I added. Spiritual life had to be about the direct experience of the Divine. I began to ask questions. I began to seek out a deeper experience of God, and a spiritual training of some sort. This was quite a shift for an 11-year-old young boy in Nebraska in 1977!
Carrie Fischer was only 10 years older than me when I watched the first Star Wars film. Her passing not long ago along with the death of her mom Debbie Reynolds left me with a deep sadness, and a reinforced determination to meet each day as a gift. That is one of the most important lessons I have learned in my lifelong commitment to spiritual work and surrender to God.
I’ve been a supporter and avid visitor of the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium for years, but a visit this last weekend started to change my opinion about this place that so many years warranted “Best In the World” status.
Much to my regret, I observed that a construction project was underway at the Prairie Dog Hill Pavillion. It leaves me with sadness to see this only untouched part of the zoo, a wooded area where prairie dogs along with other wildlife roamed, undergoing a forced renovation for other uses.
Why is this necessary? I spent countless hours in this sanctuary, over many years, seeing animals in nature and finding much-needed peace at the same time.
I’ve observed prairie dog behavior up close as well as the arrival of the new prairie dogs in late spring. I’ve watched turkeys wander by, sometimes six at a time, and on one day they flew miraculously into the trees above me!
Now visitors will likely not have that experience.
Furthermore, while walking through other parts of the zoo, I can’t seem to be allowed any degree of peace while public address systems blare needless pop music.
Exactly why does Huey Lewis and the News and REO Speedwagon have to be blasted over loudspeakers in a place where people should be able to find communion with nature? Really???
A zoo should offer patrons the chance to observe and appreciate animals at close range. It is hard to do that when the focus of the place becomes mere entertainment: A circus-like atmosphere for maximum stimulation, instead of a refuge away from all of the stimulation of this present day, where magical encounters can take place between humans and animals.
I’m fortunate to have had many of these encounters before the rush to monetization took place.
I was born Christopher S. Cooke in June 1966 in Omaha, Nebraska. Since earliest memory, I have had the experience of the Presence of God in my life. The challenge of my early years was to find if the direct experience of God could be deepened by the church I was part of as a result of my family.
The Presbyterian Church in the 1970s was arguably a good place for any start of a theological consideration to take place. And by my 10th year, I was reading a wide variety of spiritually minded books as well as the Bible itself. I have always enjoyed reading books.
There was much to learn in Sunday School about the life of Christ, which I studied very carefully. I also paid attention to the Old Testament and especially the books of Genesis and Exodus. These received many hours of careful study and examination on my part. I remember as a young kid drawing my own conception of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ which I felt would take place at the turn of the century(back in the 1970s several noted authors alleged this would happen.).
Unfortunately, the church that I attended was one where the direct experience of God was not actually encouraged. Nor were any questions about theology, doctrine or dogma. And my youthful innocence and diligence at studying my lessons was, in fact, made fun of by several young people who were just “coasting” through the confirmation class.
The tradition that I grew up in was one where the experience of God (via Christ) and other miraculous happenings attributed to the saints happened long, long ago. And not surprisingly, I was told not to mention my own experiences of God to anyone. I wondered, wasn’t this the kind of experience that the church would presumably want people to have?
As a result, I started to have questions about the church and worship environment that I was in. Those questions were answered in part by a series of events that happened in the late 1970s that led into the early 1980s. More on that soon. Stay tuned!
The Presence of God is my “safe” space. For over three decades, I have surrendered daily into the Living Presence of God, which has been the core practice of my ongoing spiritual work and investigation into the nature of Consciousness. As my meditative & devotional practices have deepened over the years I have realized the absolute necessity of surrendering to the Divine.
Truth is the Divine Presence. And as I have found out through decades of study of holy texts from the entire human spiritual tradition, the request is made, one way or another to a surrender to the Divine, never the “me” that cannot by fed and satisfied by the quest for experience.
I have realized in total contrast to the psychotic, neurotic world of self-obsessing individuals that the “me” that countless millions fixate around is not “truth”. That “me” cannot be fulfilled in this life, nor is it possible.
And I can no longer remain silent. The unpredictable nature of this world is no longer sustainable by the status quo of polite indifference or withholding the testimony of my life of service to the Divine in order to stay “popular” on social media.
And so it begins. Welcome to the start of my spiritual autobiography, a work in progress. Stay tuned!
This month marks my 50th year of being on this planet. It has been quite a ride, to say the least.
As a life long student of spirituality I have experienced profound spiritual transformation and change, in ways that I am working to describe for the eventual release of my autobiography. Having practiced meditation daily since 1983, I have come to know and experience directly the Presence of God. Every day is an opportunity to surrender to the will of Eternal Mind. I have also studied with several truly accomplished spiritual masters who have changed my life in ways that I find hard to put into words. And, unfortunately, I have encountered several con artists, and organizations, that are frauds.
True spiritual life requires a firm grounding in practical reality. That practical reality has included years of work to support my career in radio and web design. While on the air for over 25 years as a radio broadcaster and jazz host, there has been a rich and thoroughly stimulating life for me as a presenter of some of the finest music ever recorded in history. Jazz music has been my salvation.
And to provide website services for musician clients has given me a “backstage” pass to the challenging world of the independent musician, who is involved in a struggle of epic proportions to bring the music to the marketplace.
It is an ongoing process..
These are uncertain times. I cannot pretend that I am not deeply concerned by the direction this country seems to headed. And, with Trump as the axis on which the political narrative
seems to turning, for better or for worse, the country seems to be as as agitated as an industrial strength washer at a laundromat.
Making America “great” requires clear statements of how exactly this will be done.
If America is going to be run like a business, then what are the long term goals for this country? There are ongoing, huge problems with a wide spectrum of concerns in America. For 40 years I have watched politicians kick the can down the road.
Let’s pick one: Transportation. At present, if a person doesn’t want to board an airplane to fly from one city to another, driving is the only option, unless that person lives in a part of the country that is served by trains. Or, in some cases, take a bus, when they are available. Here’s a local problem to bring this into perspective:
Omaha is served by a bus system which is, despite its recent renovation, only functional on weekdays, and not to all parts of the city. It does not extend to Lincoln.
Why is it that two cities, Omaha and Lincoln, that together exceed more than one million people in population density are not connected by some form of light rail link, at least?
Recently I learned that at one point in time there was a passenger rail service between Omaha and Lincoln, the two largest cities in Nebraska. That was phased out many decades ago. Amtrak does run a westbound train through Omaha on a daily basis but this is not the kind of regular service that could really benefit the area.
This is the kind of problem that wouldn’t exist in most other modern countries. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to register on the radar screen in most of the political discussions in this country.
And it is just one example of the basic transportation infrastructure in this country which is in dire need of modernization and repair. For 40 years the transportation can has been kicked down the road. And then some more. And then past the next election cycle. I’ve been following the political scene in America since 1976. It remains to be seen when this, and many other long term issues in this country, will be resolved by leaders with the vision and guts to do so.
Many people send out during the holidays their “accomplishments of this year” letter which details what they have done, seen, or achieved during the last year. I did receive several of those kinds of holiday letters during the holiday season which ended a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately, I have no way to begin to write an accomplishments letter of similar magnitude. For me, I am compelled to write this note of gratitude instead.
I am exceedingly grateful that my wife, after a series of medical procedures and hospital stays and recuperations, is still alive.
The private agony of not knowing if, or how long the person you love the most will take to recover, is not something that can be measured by a yardstick or a to-do list.
During the last year, I became re-acquainted with local hospital facilities that I hadn’t seen in years, even decades. In these places, my wife was subjected to a wide variety of treatments, each becoming more worrisome than the next. I relieved to report that, with God’s help and the skill of an incredible medical team, my wife has made it through to 2016. Thankfully, there are no procedures or hospital stays in the immediate future.
And I am very grateful for the gift of another year with her.