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.
I’ve gotten used to it by now. Over the last year I’ve come to know the drill very well, during the hospital visits for my wife’s medical procedures. It begins with the farewell at the receiving desk as my wife checks in to be admitted into the hospital, and then the wait begins.
There are magazines, coffee & snacks in all of the waiting rooms I have visited. In some of them, there are large screen televisions blaring the most banal programming imaginable as a distraction or as a sedative for people like me.
I prefer to remain alert to the passage of time.
The status board does provide some comfort. On it can be found the status of the person who is undergoing the procedure. Their names are in initials. So at least I can know in some dim way what is happening to my wife.
But that doesn’t change the nature of time. Minutes become hours. Hours become days..or so it seems.
Coffee is used as a restorer of positive mood in the waiting room. Reinforcing the will to remain fearless in the face of unknowable events impacting my wife.
Sometimes the procedures stretch out into the afternoon. There’s a lunch room nearby. Amazingly, it has food that is appealing. More time is eaten that way.
Finally, the waiting comes to an end. The receptionist calls me up to the desk and I am told that I can see my wife. Then the longest, loneliest walk begins. If the walk takes longer than five minutes I have the time to prepare myself for the post-op condition of my wife, in recovery, attached to a battery of medical monitoring equipment, half conscious because of the medications. And it is at this moment that I say a prayer of gratitude that she has survived yet another operation.