A Socratic warrior of self discovery

This book is, at its essence, a story of change, tied together by my Parkinson’s disease (PD) progression. As with virtually all replies to life’s big questions, I don’t know the answers, so please, stop reading if you expect to find them here. Leaving meaning undefined doesn’t bother me. I’m comfortable accepting that after two and a half decades of searching for meaning, a single universal truth is unlikely to be revealed due to persistence or effort. I am content to settle instead on fleeting glimpses of partial meaning through the looking glass, unresolved accounts only witnessed obliquely during states of complete surrender.

“I don’t know and probably never will” is a powerfully liberating home base from which to conduct one’s life—it is supreme freedom. Maybe the only path to lasting peace is adhering to the deep-seated blessing of absolute acceptance, of being at peace, knowing deep in the soul that the answers to life’s big questions will remain a mystery until I die. Borrowing from the Bronx bus-fixing philosopher, Matt “The Cat,” of an earlier book, “Peter, sometimes things just ‘bees’ that way.” [1]

Bluewater begins where my previous book, Beyond Identity, ends, about six months after my father died in 2019. Half a year is hardly sufficient space to breathe in lasting conclusions about life, particularly death’s surreptitious puzzle of inevitability. The story begins with the covid pandemic in full swing. “Reality” as a common word is taking hits from every quarter in this time of fluid meaning and quarantine’s forced introspection. The journey, however, does not follow the rigid course typically expected of a story. Instead, the first chapter is one of many ideas and thoughts that came to me during walks, hikes, driving while listening to loud music, and occasionally after I sit down to write about something completely different. The words often come to me in unexpected syntax and order. Although I do not claim to be a channeler, writing has given me an appreciation for those channelers who rely on a creative medium to connect with another plane of existence. Sometimes, I can’t believe the shit that comes off my printer, casting me adrift, free-floating in an anxious sea of unintended potential plagiarism as I look on, mesmerized in a state of creative tranquility.

My route requires that I disbelieve nothing; all is possible, including multiple instantaneous, substantially different narratives, each as correct as the others, depending on perspective. It is also worth noting that as I discard the various components of my past reality, the internal running story that keeps my ego moving forward, I feel no need to replace the old, proven (from my perspective) meta-narrative with a new, unproven set of parameters in its place. Suppose the old paradigm of the world was one of oppression, control, and greed, as I tend to believe. In that case, it is one of life’s greatest mysteries to me how so many cannot seem to go a single day without immediately replacing their old, faulty version of reality with a fully prepared alternative story. 

There is not much—there may be nothing—that is not fair game in life for a kind-hearted, if at times irreverent and crude, joke or two. Humor instantly neutralizes Parkinson’s power, rendering it temporarily helpless and ineffectual. Mocking Parkinson’s feeble attempts to hobble the spirit immediately erases any fear of the disease, but please be advised: my arguments will undoubtedly ruffle feathers as they tread on the societal conditioning that keeps us from asking the essential questions of the progressive disease experience. Please expect some of your foundational beliefs and practices to be challenged, perhaps at first, in a way you don’t quite understand. It might just feel uncomfortable. I consider it my job to ask provocative questions. So, let’s start with this loaded statement:

“Parkinson’s disease is the best thing ever to happen to me.”

Now, most people with Parkinson’s for even a few years might take issue with this statement, thinking it is either naive or irresponsible. Believe it or not, I chose my words carefully to highlight an important point that often goes unnoticed. What became your priority when you heard some neurologist say, “You have Parkinson’s disease”? At the time, what was most important to you in life? The specifics of what this might look like will vary tremendously among individuals. Some might wish to prepare their family for what is to follow. Others might want to dedicate their lives to helping others. I won’t dare go into more specifics than are already listed, but there are many different goals, all valuable and worthy of respect.

My point is that whether or not the neurologist’s assessment of Parkinson’s incurable status is credible, it is a life-altering diagnosis, and an examination of life priorities should not be surprising. That is why I consider Parkinson’s an opportunity, replete with numerous reminders that my life has dramatically changed and will continue to evolve within me until I die. Difficulty balancing is one such reminder, joining my compliment of Parkinson’s disease symptoms in 2022. It is likely, at least to my way of thinking, that hot yoga’s emphasis on the equilibrium of body and soul held it at bay for eighteen years, but now it is here. Once I realized my balance was suffering, I decided to increase the number of hikes up steep inclines in beautiful Washington State, a counterintuitive strategy that merits explanation. The short but arduous hikes (under an hour but with steep hills) force me to pay strict attention while leaning slightly forward or risk falling off a cliff. Adding to each short hike’s difficulty level, most of my walks are solo endeavors so that I might achieve a more enriching meditative state. Frankly, I enjoy the quiet of doing things by myself.

Wouldn’t a lower-risk balance practicing strategy, say one in the safe, comfortable environs of physical therapy, make more sense? Maybe from the perspective of living a long life, but the age when I die is not my priority. My priority is to live a full life, pushing back at perceived limitations and challenging my beliefs. We will all die, and probably not in the manner we expect. Placing your life focus on longevity tacitly uses the fear of death as its motivation. Using fear as a motivating force stunts the ability to grow and adapt. It is exhausting, depletes energy levels, and promotes a negative attitude.

Going hiking alone focuses on life’s positives, invariably strengthening in me sensations of love, compassion, and kindness. Resentment, anger, and fear harden the soul. In short, I prefer to focus squarely on life, not one possible way of dying. Look around you at the miracle of animation. All is as it must be, including Parkinson’s, so why not welcome it? My goal in battling Parkinson’s has little to do with the disease. It is to continue my spiritual growth toward an automatic, unconditional love for all of humanity, especially with those with whom I disagree. Or until I’m dead; either way, it is okay. Unconditional love is in natural balance with things exactly as they are.

I don’t need a guru, influencer, or leader to know that all answers lie within me. I learned to look inward for life’s answers while searching the ocean for a missing navy jet. It was a jet that I had flown from land bases and the aircraft carrier USS Ranger a quarter century before my search began, miraculously finding it after a year and a half of strenuous and dangerous effort. For anyone interested, I wrote a book on the search and discovery called The Lost IntruderMy lost Intruder experience was profoundly revealing to me, with the 18-month adventure teaching me more about who I was than all of my previous 53 years, the age I was when we finally found the missing aircraft.

The search for the lost Intruder is the inspiration behind my journey of self-discovery. Without planning or hoping for it, I discovered peace during the adventure: that was the real miracle, and I have sought that abiding contentment ever since. It is why this page is here for you to read. Please take a moment to reflect on the essential things in life, especially after accepting life’s highest truism; we all will die.

Because we most certainly will.

[1] Peter M. Hunt, SETTING THE HOOK, A DIVER’S RETURN TO THE ANDREA DORIA, CreateSpace 2011, p. 264.