By Way of Introduction

  • I really should introduce myself properly.


    I originally wrote rather lengthy origin story.  It was similar to the one that I had on my blog a few years past, but it was unforgivably self-indulgent.


    So, I deleted it and started over.


    Then, I created something more of a timeline akin to Dr. Manhattan’s monologue in the movie Watchmen.  You know, “It’s 1974 in New Orleans, I’m six years old and I’ve just performed my first escape act.”


    It felt horribly pretentious.


    So, I deleted it and started over.


    Still, a form of introduction is in order, so here’s a third attempt.


    Greetings, I’m Rook.


    I’ve been practicing escapes since I was six years old and have been practicing stage magic since I was nine.  I went professional in my teens and my performance career went on hiatus when I went to college. 


    I graduated with a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience and eventually went back to school to become licensed as a clinical psychologist.  I now work as a professor at a nearby university.


    About four years ago, I was diagnosed with stage IV throat cancer.  This isn’t something one comes back from easily, so it was quite an existential shock.  Chemotherapy and radiotherapy took quite a toll on me and I was certain that I had reached my expiration date.


    Convinced that I had made little positive impact on the world and that I had very little time left in which to do so, I serendipitously discovered the RLSH movement in late 2010.


    I adopted the name “Rook,” partially in recognition of a childhood character that I had created with my cousin, but also because the Rook is the chess piece on the board that reaches out to places that most of the other pieces do not.  I began my RLSH campaign by handing out water bottles to the homeless population, as Phoenix can be a very dangerous place to live without an ongoing supply of water.  While I felt it to be a clearly worthy cause, it didn’t feel that it played best to my strengths.  As such, the water bottle campaign served as a segue into the community while I developed myself as an RLSH and attempted to reason out what my “power” truly was.


    A little over a year ago, I saw a brief seminar presented by a fellow psychologist and magician named Tom Verner, who created Magicians Without Borders.  This is an organization that, among other things, arranged for magic performances at refugee camps around the world.  Dr. Verner’s genius struck and inspired me.


    Magic, as a performance art, has the ability to convey messages in a very deep and meaningful way.  An escape artist demonstrates that the human spirit cannot be oppressed, a magician illustrates that nothing is truly impossible.  As a magician, escape artist, and psychologist, I felt that it was well within my “powers” to create performances that would offer hope and empowerment to those who needed it most.


    My mission was finally clear.  I dusted off my magic apparatus and set to developing what eventually became Meaningful Magic, a nonprofit organization that develops and performs magic shows with themes of hope and empowerment free of charge at homeless shelters, food banks, and other community service organizations that serve those in need.


    In short, I’m Rook.  I’m a neuroscientist-turned-psychologist employed as a professor who, after being exposed to radiation and toxic chemicals found a way to help others by using magic.


    Pleased to meet you.