The Wandering Monk

Brewmaster Rysu – New Posts On Tuesdays


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Intelligence vs Ignorance

During a conversation with someone on the ambiguity of Ignorance vs Stupidity, this portion of the topic came up.  This is just a snippet of a larger conversation, but I thought it summarized a point of view I’d like to capture here.

/.Begin./

Perhaps I will be judged for what I am about to say, but it has been my experience that a great many people do not have a thirst for knowledge. I have found true enjoyment in my need for learning. It has fostered my ability to hear that I am wrong, internalize it, and also be OK with it, contrary to the personalities I find. It also drives me to fact check myself and others.

I do this not just because I love to learn, but because there is a lot of Grade A Bullshit in the world, and face value wants you to believe everything you hear. I don’t ever believe anything that anyone says to me, no matter what they are saying, or who they are, simply because they said it. I believe it because I have either found it to be true myself or researched it and have drawn the same conclusion. Even then, I am willing to hear opposing sides that challenge that view, but I will also be equipped to counter with my experiences, or with what I had found in research.

What about first-hand knowledge vs hearing it from someone else?  Experience is absolutely important, but not always practical. Forming our own opinions by gleaning as much information as we can, however, can be made practical with perspective.

For example, if you told me that water density has one of the biggest impacts on global climate, that would be face value. Even if I respected you more than any other human being on the planet, and had never known you to take shortcuts in your speech, I would want to know that what you’re saying is true, and more importantly, why that’s true.

I can’t very well go analyze water density around the world to discover how it impacts climate, but I can research it on my own. I can discover that salt water that is heavier and enables colder water to sink and warmer water to rise, fueling strong currents to carry warmth from the equator up towards northern (European) countries that, without this constant supply of warmth, would be frigid and cold. I can learn, through multiple perspectives and unbiased investigation, that polar ice caps melting slowly modify the density of the ocean at certain points, causing this current to naturally change in depth. I can learn that this is one part of a much larger global climate discussion that I am not engaged with.

Perhaps years ago, this mentality would have manifested in different ways. As scholars who spent countless years of their life researching thoughts, ideas, and theories, perhaps. We are in the Information Age now, and I have endless knowledge at my fingertips. With critical thinking, common sense, and a mind to discover reality and truth in an unbiased way, I can abate ignorance in favor of knowledge any time I want. And so can anyone else.

Collectively, this ought to make us smarter, right?  I often wonder if it makes us lazy, as a people. Perhaps time will tell.

When we start off as human beings, such as infants and toddlers, we are curious creatures. Complacency, social pressure, and pack minds are what lead us away from our curiosity, I think. People want to tell you what they’ve found, and you can feel their enthusiasm. Its usually rude or disrespectful to tell someone they’re wrong. You’ll be perceived as argumentative and social opinion of you will suffer.

However, if we can shed the sheep’s clothing and stand as ourselves, not as the person pushed around by the opinions and misleading factoids of others, we can solidify our identity, our opinions, and our beliefs as founded from within, not from without.

Earlier I made a reference to a misquote and paraphrased version of the Kalama Sutra (a Buddhist/Dharma text), often attributed incorrectly to Buddha (Gautama Siddharta), that says:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

The actual text in Kalama Sutra reads:
“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”

You may be wondering why I’m making references to Buddhism randomly in a conversation about ignorance vs intelligence. The reason for the reference is two-fold.

First, the advice in both statements is, to me, great advice to heed, because I have found in my life that these things are true. Whether you subscribe to either passage, or even both, the idea of paddling your own canoe is a noble one and honestly, the one that truly defines you, in my opinion.

Second, to point out the difference of the misrepresentation of the original quote. The irony here is that it is a quote to tell you not to believe anything you read simply because you read it, and it is itself a falsely referenced quote (maybe intentionally done to reinforce the conundrum its offering, but that’s a tad conspiracy theory, isn’t it?).

TL;DR: See with your eyes, hear with your ears, feel with your fingers, and greatly and meticulously observe and experience your whole reality as much as possible.  Do this and you may just find that the words of others have little to no sway over the person that you become.

Then again, if you do decide to do this, will you have done it because I said to, or because you believe you should?

Ah, and so the paradox persists.

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The Wandering Monk: Chapter 1

Rysu awoke, groggy eye lids lifting, exposing light to his instantly narrowing pupils.  The sun was up, but the morning breeze grazing the waters of Angler’s Warf told him it was only just so.  He rolled from his bed slowly, feet gracefully shifting his weight to standing despite the obvious hangover he was nursing with his palm.  The floor boards creaked with each step as he paced towards the doorway of his tiny hovel.  As he passed the threshold, the light of the day instantly readjusted his vision, sharp pangs of a headache reacting to the brightness.

Peering down and out over the bay, he could see the brushing waves from high atop his hilltop hut, hear and smell the ocean’s kiss, taste the salty air and the smell of spring as it carried the scents of the Jade Forest.  The kites appended to the small hut’s frame danced above him, the unique sounds of the taut rope that bound them reminding him of their presence.  A heavy sigh of contentment and happiness washed over his body. His headache faded within seconds, replaced only with the clarity of his pervading Chi, the soaring, reacting energy of his spirit.

Renewed with vigor, Rysu returned to his hut and drew his blankets over the bed.  He scooped up his canvas bag and walking staff, from which numerous jingling bottles of sloshing liquid hung from, and wrapped his belt of various brew-containing-gourds over his chest.  On his way out, picked up an apple from a fruit basket for breakfast.

A content smile drifted across his lips as the sun once again warmed his skin.  “Today is going to be a great–” he began, but paused at the sound of a soft thrum of air.  His ears perked at the subtle change in echoing air pressure and the faint sound of a fast moving object.  He took a step forward and out of the doorway and, seeing without sight, he plucked a swift traveling arrow from the air just as it darted down towards him.  His keen eyes fixed into the sky and scanned the distance for the arrow’s origin.  He saw nothing.

Glancing down to the arrow, he noticed a wrapped note about its shaft.  The arrow head was pointed, but dull, and would not have pierced any armor.  Clearly this was a message, not an attack.  The burly brewmaster resigned himself to receive this message with an open mind, despite the odd method of its delivery.  He plopped down on the deck of his hut, placing his bamboo staff at his side, the various gourd rattling as they touched the wood.

He tugged the ribbon around the arrow, unfurling the parchment, and he raised it into the light so he could read it.

URGENT

Esteemed Brewmaster, your feats across the world are well renowned.  You have aided the people of Pandaria and, indeed, the all of the peoples of Azeroth countless times. 

We call upon your aid once again.  Our order is young to the people of Azeroth, but we have stood for thousands of years as a bastion of peace against encroaching darkness.  The Burning Legion threatens Azeroth once again and we must rally behind the forces of the world to meet this threat. 

Please meet us at the Peak of Serenity so that we may discuss this further.

Grandmaster Hight

Rysu stared at the parchment a moment even after he finished reading it.  As a budding Lorewalker, Rysu was well versed in the history of Azeroth.  As he traveled far and wide, he knew intimately the danger the Burning Legion posed and saw the destruction their agents could  bring.  Visions of his expedition into Draenor invaded his mind’s sight.  Battles with demons, with the Legion’s warlock-lieutenant Gul’dan and the terrible might of the demon Mannoroth.  It took effort to summon his calming Chi and to dismiss the events’ influence on him.  He tucked the parchment in his jerkin and stood, staff in hand.

Aligning the staff vertically with his center, he concentrated.  His chi wrote ancient symbols in the air that began circling around his still form even as his free hand positioned itself to his center, fingers extended vertically assist in channeling.  His form began to take on a jade, translucent hue, his physical and spiritual presences interchangeably shifting the phase of his tie to the physical world.

The ancient symbols that circled him spun wildly and, in a single instant, a surge of spiritual energy sent his metaphysical form into a pilgrimage of zen.

The centered Brewmaster’s eyes drifted open and he stood at a walkway before the monastery structures of the Peak of Serenity.  The winds and air was cold in contrast to the warmth of the Angler’s Warf, but it was a welcome sensation as it reminded him of the years of study he had put into these wonderful grounds.  Rysu paced with present-minded patience along the path leading to the main monastery, gesturing with deep respect to the other masters as he climbed the steps towards the temple.

Pressing his palm to the mighty oak doors, he began his entrance.  Even as he entered, he could feel the vibration of concerned voices as they echoed against the walls of his sanctuary.  The doors closed with a resounding thud behind him, and his eyes beheld a mighty congregation of monks from all over the world, each standing around a few tables scattered across the mighty room.  He instantly spotted the masters he had come to know throughout his training, studying with other prominent monks of all races.

He approached Grand Master Hight and bowed deeply, softly speaking his name to announce his presence without disturbing him.  The calm master turned to face Rysu, his ever calm visage offering only the slightest hue of concern across his brow.

“Ah, Brewmaster Rysu, I am pleased that you received my summons.” Grand Master Hight began, his voice steady, “Come, there is much to tell you and little time.”  said even as Master Hight gestured to the table he was standing before.  Gathered around the table were several familiar faces; notably Chen Stormstout.

Master Hight gestured to a position on the map, marked with an evil green and dotted with many overlays and strategic markings, not all of which did Rysu recognize.  “The Burning Legion is arriving in Azeroth as we speak, summoned by Gul’dan following the defeat of Archimonde in Draenor,” Master Hight said, even as his eyes moved to gesture at Rysu and began to scan across other prominent Monks that were present during that battle, out of respect.  “He seeks the power of the Tomb of Sargeras, as he once did years ago.”

“Only this time, he has succeeded,” Master Chang mentioned, his face grim.

Master Hight nodded and stood upright, eyes still fixed on the shore of the Broken Isles, finalizing his plan.  Smoothly, he walked to the head of the room, standing before the other Monks.  Without a single gesture from the Grand Master, the other Monks of the room instantly silenced and awaited his words.

“My brothers and sisters,” Master Hight began, his words carried by the tone of inspiration and confidence, “You have your assignments, so lets go over the plan.”

Rysu watched intently as the Grand Master laid out the plan for the Broken Shore, instructing a team of highly trained monks to accompany each fleet vessel.  To embody unity, the teams were composed of equal numbers of the Horde and Alliance.  They would reside across the ship manifests that were departing toward the enemy in waves, bolstering the reinforcements of the armies that will arrive following the initial push for a beach head.

When he finished his brief, he turned to face the brave monks that stood before him.  He looked at each of them in silence and they back to him, each with honor, reverence, and pride in their hearts.  “Be strong, be a family.”  He said with a voice that echoed with strength, but also with concern for them.  He bowed deeply to them and they returned his gesture instantly.  At once they began to depart in their collectives, utilizing the summoned portals of the faction cities that often remained for fast travel.

Rysu remained, silent and observant, unsure what his orders were.  All that remained now was the Grand Master, Chen Stormstout, Aysa Cloudsinger, Ji Firepaw, and Brewmaster Rysu. Master Hight approached the map on the table he was at earlier.  He nodded to Chen Aysa and Ji and they bowed silently and walked from the halls.  Chen nodded a moment later, and then joined them, placing a single paw on Rysu’s shoulder as he walked by.

Confused, Rysu looked to Master Hight, “What would you have me do, Grand Master?”

Master Hight looked at Rysu, but said nothing.  After what felt like moments, he placed his finger on the map, indicating a position to the North of the Broken Shore.  “We must establish a beach head for our brothers and sisters, or they will and the armies of Azeroth never break the demonic front.”

Rysu lifted his brows in shock, not expecting this plan, “And how many will join us for this effort, Master?”  Master Hight looked Rysu dead in the eyes, “I will.”