A Philosopher Named Cooper

By Victor Johnson, Career Facilitator

The morning was cool.  The orange and yellow-gold rays of sunlight were starting to move to the top of the trees and spill into my backyard, drying the dew.  I listened to a chickadee thank me for the bird food I had put out as a bribe to hear the songs of the morning birds.  As I scanned the yard, I saw him: the philosopher, Cooper.

Just in case some of you thought I had misspelled Copernicus, I didn’t.  I meant Cooper.  The Philosopher was jumping into the air around a toy in the yard.  Then he grabbed it and threw it up a few feet and then jumped around it again.  He grabbed it once more and rolled on his back and held it in front of his face.  He dropped it, flipped over and started the whole process again with what looked like a blissful grin.

Finally, I had to say something.

“Cooper! What are you doing? You’re acting like I just got that toy for you!”

Cooper stopped and looked at me for a minute.  He studied me.  Waited for me to move or say more.  When I didn’t follow up with more talk, he went right back to jumping around the toy like he had just discovered a lost treasure.

“Cooper, you look like you have lost your mind!  How long are you going to do that?”

Cooper stopped and stared at me again.  This time he picked up the toy and ran over to me and almost knocked me over.

If you hadn’t guessed before, Cooper is a dog.  He is an adorable one year-old Bernese Mountain Dog. As I steadied myself against the 80 pound puppy (yes, he is still a puppy to me), Cooper kept trying to push the toy into my hand.  After a few play growls, I took it from him and through it across the yard.  He didn’t bring it back, he went right back to jumping and rolling on his back. Periodically he would stop and look at me as if to say, “Aren’t you going to join me?”

That is when I realized Cooper is a philosopher.  His philosophy, his simple joyful approach to each day changed my mind.  Two weeks ago I would have started this story with ‘one morning I was in my back yard…’ Today, I pay attention to the sun, the grass, the dew, the birds, my family, my friends, my community.

Cooper was telling me, “Everything is new today!  It may look the same, but it is a new day!  Isn’t it great!”

I was and still am concerned about protecting myself from COVID-19, being able to work, paying the bills, buying food.  One day to the next, I had just been thinking doing what I needed to get through the day.  It snuck up on me. Wondering when this critical time will end. Thinking that every day was the same fight to take care of myself and my family. 

What Cooper told me is that each day is a new gift unto itself.  So what if you’re looking at the same thing you had yesterday?  Each day is an opportunity to look at it as a new thing or in a new way.  What are you going to do with it? 

I need to, for myself, look at every day as the opportunity to see, feel, and act in a new way.  To challenge myself to start new things.  Maybe it is continuing to write a book, or practicing an instrument, or giving my wife flowers.  With or without COVID, Cooper was telling me that if I don’t see every day as a new opportunity, I am wasting time.  Now, I am thinking about what I can accomplish if I look at each day as a completely new opportunity to use my time wisely, to become more than I was yesterday.

Smart dog! Good boy!

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