The Wandering Monk

Brewmaster Rysu – New Posts On Tuesdays

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The Blonde Ale of Life

Yesterday was the day for opening the first bottle of my long awaited Blonde Ale.  Six weeks ago I had spent a enjoyable Sunday afternoon proudly mixing grains, malts, hops, and love into a tonic of marvelous invent.  I worried and stressed over the process; meticulously ensured it stayed clean.  I watched the temperature like a hawk to ensure the grain and malt remained at the exact appropriate temperature it needed to for hours.  I was careful with every drop, every movement.  I prepared endlessly — something I do not typically do nearly as much — and was a surgeon whilst I poured it into the car boy.  For weeks on end, I impatiently waited, going over the process in my mind every day, scrutinizing my steps to make sure I had done everything exactly as I thought I should’ve.  A true INTP, I was in a constant contest of logic with myself, determined to ensure the best possible outcome. 

In doing all of this, I stumbled upon an interesting thought path: I experienced real care and emotion for this batch of brew.  I loved the process, the chemistry, and the crafted art that I could express, and I felt as though this could be one of the finest beers I’ve made — perhaps a masterpiece — so long as I pour enough energy into it.  

Yesterday, the bottles were chilled, and I prepared for a wonderful dinner to compliment the experience.  I felt that if the beer somehow turned out terrible, it would ruin my whole night.  I found myself trapped in the thoroughs of anxiety.  I opened the first fermented wonder and the frothing brew reacted to the pressure release, bubbling up like a majestic fountain.  This wasn’t the ‘shaken soda’ kind of overflow, it was something more; something beautiful.  

I did what any self-respecting beer crafter would do and just took a huge drink of the overflowing beverage to release the bottle-neck.  It was that single, shining moment that punctuated the experience.  The Blonde Ale was absolutely amazing.

I sat down to my Shiitake and Garlic-infused burger, topped with Miso Mayo and a crisp potato bun, my tasty new discovery, and a beaming smile that closely resembled a new parent’s happiness upon meeting their child for the first time. 

That’s when it hit me. 

My journey through creating this Blonde Ale was a tiny metaphor for life.  In my daily life, I often calculate and stress, but simultaneously pour my energy into all the things I do.  If it succeeds, it brings me great happiness and fulfillment; it enables me to validate my efforts and subconsciously manages my self-esteem a bit.  If it fails, and the opposite is also true; I suffer from it.  When I was younger this was nearly crippling, but the years have taught me to remain flexible.  

Zu Quan asks us to maintain our center and to let flow the free hand of our energies, tempered by the practiced hand, harnessing the true nature of the universe to apply art, skill, and universal understanding to the situation.  Perhaps it is a fight, or perhaps it is negotiating life’s challenges.  Buddhist philosophy asks me to follow the Eight Fold Path to Enlightenment and remember the Four Noble Truths.

But was I adhering to these principles?  I think no.  We’re my beer to have failed, my mood would have soured and my self image would have altered.  I would have stumbled over myself in thought and emotion, and I would have resisted the nature of the universe.  I would have been the aging oak, not the flexible reed.  

So, today, I have reaffirmed my dedication to keeping centered.  Whether this is physically, emotionally, mentally, or psychologically, my center must be present.  Happiness is a delightful feeling and one we often seek.  But I have to remember that the happiness I felt last night did not come from the Blonde Ale, it came from the hard work, the care and love, and the time and nurtur that I poured into the effort. Perhaps if I had this same beer from a store, it would not have had the same luster.  

There is no way to happiness.  Happiness is the way.  


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Gas Station Sushi

Think of the words “Gas Station Sushi” and record your first impression on that phrase.

Specifically, answer these points:

1.  Initial thought.

2.  Visualization (if any)

3.  Associated impression.4.  If a friend asked you about your opinion, what would you say?

Now before we get into where this conversation is going, write those answer down.  

Alright, now that we’ve considered ‘what’ your perspective is, let’s follow it.  I won’t pretend to know what your responses were but, for most, the thought of Gas Station Sushi generated a few opinions immediately.  These initial impressions have some keen insights not only into a single person’s perspective, but also on a social case that can be made for some much harder issues.  Let’s take a look.

If you’re like me or many others, you saw the words ‘Gas Station Sushi’ and your first impression was likely not a favorable one.  Without having any direct interest, a person may respond to the phrase with indifference or disinterest at a minimum, or may leap to assuming a great many things from the phrase at a maximum.  If you felt indifferent, then this speaks for a cautious, open, and analytical mind whereas if you leapt to a conclusion, it may indicate that you trust your immediate instinct and impressions, draw conclusions from experiences with relation to subject matter, and likely behave in a headstrong manner.  

Further, if you remained indifferent, it may mean you struggle to direct your focus and energy into a single task.  This exercise, for example, implicitly asks you to engage with it.  Doing so minimally means you’re interest enough to participate, but not interested enough to give it your mind’s full focus.  Pre-judging based on the phrase means you draw from experiences innately, and psychologically react to those experiences, especially bad ones, with a internalized, pre-determined action (that may or may not be a conscious decision).  

But what does this mean for society at large?  Well, look around in your group of friends and in the social communities you participate in.  Do you see more of the reserved, cautiously optomistic, critical thinkers?  Or do you see the reactive, knee-jerk, hasty responders?  Statistically speaking, you’re likely to encounter the later, not the former.  Our society innately fears what it doesn’t understand and it rarely takes the time to see a situation through before making a decision on their action.  This action doesn’t have to be a physical one, it can be a psychological action too.  

Can you think of where Gas Station Sushi fits into this?  What if we replaced Gas Station Sushi with a particular ethnicity, gender, race, creed, or religion?  Would the results be different?  Here again, statistically speaking, they would not.  Notoriously, we as humans have oppressed those whom we did not understand, or whom we judged too hastily.  When humanity hears Gas Station Sushi, it reels at the thought.  Indeed it may research and investigate it, but the stigma is born from an initial and widespread action.  Only through aggressive, societal change, can this stigma be broken.  

Consider for a moment that human beings, like Sushi, vary wildly beyond their titles and the words we invented to describe them.  Consider that the function of our language is to convey ideas, not bind others with restriction.  And most importantly, consider that there is only one word that can accurately describe anyone: Human

By the way, it turns out, there’s a sushi vendor by the name of Lee’s Sushi that offers high quality sushi that is quite good, at local gas stations.  This adage may have been a long winded version of “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, but truly when a cliche is uttered so often, the value in the lesson is lost.