Although the return of the legendary Twin Peaks earlier this year brought a paradigm shift to the series’ visual style and narrative structure, co-creators Mark Frost and David Lynch’s characters remained as strong and affecting as ever. From Laura Dern’s feisty portrayal of Diane Evans and the continuation of Kyle MacLachlan’s "Evil Cooper," to the intelligent yet air-headed Janey-E (Naomi Watts) and the enigmatic Richard Horne (Eamen Farron), the characters of the series shined.
Sitting above them all, however, remains Special Agent Dale Cooper. While he had less of a direct role in the new season, he's still king of the peaks and a firm fan favorite until the end. Since his introduction in the original 1990s series, the happy-go-lucky FBI agent has been altogether charming, infectious and life-affirming.
On that note, below are three life lessons we can all learn from Special Agent Dale Cooper.
1. Be Kind To Yourself And Others
I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it, don't wait for it, just let it happen.
So says Coop to Sheriff Harry Truman in Episode 6 of the first season, a small example of his caring nature and an important lesson — the detective’s gregarious demeanor and willingness to help those in need has been a staple of the character since the beginning. But beyond his face-value positivity lies a deeper connection within Eastern philosophy, specifically Buddhism and the dharma to which Agent Cooper applies in his work: “deductive technique, Tibetan method, instinct, and luck" are his self-proclaimed modus operandi. Although Cooper never declares his religious beliefs in earnest, it’s easily gleaned. It should also be noted that throughout all three seasons, he is never once seen eating meat, a principle belief in Buddhism.
While Lynch is not himself a Buddhist, it is common knowledge that he is a long-term practitioner of Transcendental Meditation. It has even been suggested by others that Coop is Lynch, and that #TwinPeaks is itself an introspection on these themes.
So, from the simplest of everyday gestures, to not eating meat, to quite literally saving someone’s life — know that Special Agent Cooper just wants to be kind to others, and we should too.
2. Adapt To Your Surroundings
Agent Cooper is an obvious outsider in the small, backwater town of Twin Peaks — everything from his immaculate black suit, slick haircut, clean-shaven face and penchant for good coffee says so. Yet somehow he fits in and becomes a (mostly) well-liked member of the community.
If you have ever moved to a new town where everyone knows everyone (and where everything is perhaps not what it seems) you will know the feeling of walking in to a bar or restaurant and immediately sensing being watched by the locals. It can be a daunting and scary affair, yet Coop embraces this, throwing himself head-first into the bizarre and murky depths of small-town life. In doing so, he finds life-long friendship in the form off Harry Truman, who, after Coop is kicked to the curb by the FBI, gives him a job at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department. He also finds love (in this case a doomed love) after meeting the delightful Annie Blackburn.
Much of this also extends to Dale’s ability to listen: overhearing snippets of conversation here and there are not only ways that Dale deduces much of his intelligence from, but also when attempting to find common ground with people. "If you don't want two black eyes on a regular basis, I would suggest you make some kind of peace with rural life," says Cooper. Or in other words: Sit, listen, observe and interact — a method which incidentally works extremely well in the case of journalism and access.
3. Appreciate The Little Things
You know, this is — excuse me — a damn fine cup of coffee.
For Coop, it’s the little things in life that gets him through the days, weeks, months and years in life. Perhaps the best example of this is his ubiquitous love of a good cup of Joe and slice of cherry pie. “They’ve got a cherry pie here that’ll kill ya,” recounts Dale of the Double R Diner.
Despite himself, he is still a vocal advocate for living life to the fullest and keeping the bigger picture in mind. In one particular exchange with Special Agent Roger Hardy, Cooper links his appreciation of the sound of wind through the trees, the sentience of animals and what we fear in the dark to looking at the world with love — all infinitesimal pieces “beyond the the edge of the board,” looking at a bigger game.
Existential crises notwithstanding, it is still the small things to which Coop looks for providing joy and sustenance to one’s life, something we can all adhere to in one way or another.
So, if you are looking to improve your outlook, don't be hard on yourself or others; if you are moving to an unfamiliar part of the world, be gregarious and outgoing; or if you feel like you are unaware — or perhaps misidentifying — the small things which are the meaning of life, take stock of what they are, what you love doing or places you love being. Do them, go there, and above all: Never drink coffee that's been anywhere near a fish.
What life lessons has Special Agent Dale Cooper taught you? Let me know in the comments section below!