The Wandering Monk

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If Not Now, When?

If you’ve been reading this blog long, you’ll know that I stipulate that I talk about Brewing Beer, doing Kung Fu, the intricate and wonderful play style of the Brewmaster Monk in World of Warcraft, and about my philosophy on life and on the things I have seen and felt in my brief but treasured time on our mutual home, Earth.

You may also notice that there are an abundance of discussions and posts that seem to feel more like they’re philosophy and less about anything else.  Casual references here and there still hook in the other topics, but it’s as if philosophy has taken center stage.

This was recently brought up to me by a friend who found my blog while searching for philosophy blogs.

Honestly, I may have only vaguely noticed.  I read back over some of the things that I’ve written and, while I do categorize these posts into different pages, much of what I’m talking about can be applied to all of these topics.  Perhaps I think this because I have an idealistic and philosophical mind.  Perhaps I think this because philosophy is how I approach all things.

Or perhaps I think this because our philosophies shape our realities.

Let’s explore.

Today I’m going to talk about something that I may have touched on in the past, but not quite in this way: Now.

Incubus is arguably one of my favorite artists.  I find their music refreshing and in my life I’ve rarely encountered a situation where at least one Incubus song didn’t apply.  One song that recently came up on randomly as I walked back from my Saturday morning breakfast place is If Not Now, When? from their album of the same name.  Here are the lyrics, for your consideration:


I have waited
Dined on ashes
Swung from chandeliers and climbed Everest
And none of it’s got me close to this.

I’ve waited all my life
If not now, when will I?

We’ve been good
Even a blast, but
Don’t you feel like somethings missing here?
Don’t you dare. (Ohh, ooo)

I’ve waited all my life
If not now, when will I?
Stand up and face the bright light
Don’t hide your eyes
It’s time.  It’s time.  It’s time.

No umbrellas.
No sunglasses.
Heal and hallelujah everyday.

I’ve waited all my life.
If not now, when willl I?
Stand up and face the bright light.
Don’t hide your eyes.
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time.

It’s time.

This song has an interesting tone and, while I don’t want to influence your interpretation of it too much, it seems to me to be telling the listener some interesting things.  It seems to start off as qualifying the speaker — look at what they’ve done.  They’ve had great sorrow, great fun, and accomplished great things.  But none of those things gave him the gift of this lesson.  The speaker wants you to look inward and ask yourself if something’s missing.  Don’t excuse (is how I took the ‘Don’t you dare‘ lyric).  Stand up and face what you know you need to do.  Don’t cut corners with sunglasses and umbrellas, don’t hide your eyes.  Because it’s time.

Clearly, the philosophical implication here goes without saying.  If learn anything from this message, it’s that if we wait forever for something to come, it may never.  So, with confidence and courage, we must face our lives head on, or simply be a passenger on a train, watching it fly by.

Yet, this blog is not about philosophy alone.  It’s about Brewing Beer, Making Tea, Practicing Kung Fu, and Playing Video games.  It’s about writing and expressing, reading and thinking.  It’s about the application of our ideas into physical reality. It’s about becoming alive and demonstrating just how we’ve done that and how we plan to do it — and how others can too.



In Kung Fu, we do a curious thing in a fight.  Even before we consider the philosophy of how we fight, how we receive our attacks, how we reply, we must first consider the philosophy of ourself and the very nature of the fight.

If we are in competition, the opponent may be a friend who is merely practicing with us.

If we are on the street, our opponent may be suffering and hurting, angry and frustrated, and lashing.  They may be full of pain, and in their desperation, or in their pride, or in their subconscious need, they’ve deemed this action — the action of attacking another person — to be their best option.

Before the fight begins, we must first consider ourselves and our opponent.

If a person is suffering in front of me, even with a gun, even with a knife, even with the intent to harm me, I do not want to cause them to suffer more.  I want to help them.  Of course, I can’t help them if they kill me, so I have to stop that first.  If I am angry, then I will approach him with anger.  If I am compassionate, I will approach him with compassion.

I will fight him with compassion.  

If I disarm him, I will not humiliate him or taunt him.  If I remove him as a threat, I will not then stand idle and allow him to suffer under the weight of even this loss.  Life is such a blossoming and beautiful thing that there just doesn’t feel like there’s room to shatter someone else’s opportunity for growth.

If he kills me, then it will be my legacy that others remember.  Perhaps my words, perhaps my actions.  Perhaps my mistakes.  But even as I die, I will only mourn the idea that I was not able to redirect his suffering and his anger towards a path that would ultimately bring him peace.

If I approach a fight this way, the methodology of my technique becomes clear and intrinsic.  It becomes almost automatic.  He will strike, and I will guide and deflect his blow as assuredly as I hope to guide him away from his suffering.  If he spits and claws, I will remove this threat because it does not only threaten me, it threatens him too.

At the end, if I am standing and he is neutralized as a threat, I will find him help as bests I can.

To me, Kung Fu is philosophy.  It is the physical manifestation of perhaps a lifelong journey of ideals and morals, internal feelings and external expression.  It is the culmination of our wisdom, our discipline, our compassion, and our intention.  If we treat it this way, we not only protect physical self, we also solidify our spiritual self.


In Brewing, we follow routine and intention and use our creativity and our intuition to find knowledge that we hope to enjoy.  Brewing teaches us patience because we must wait for our results.  It teaches us discipline because it has such exacting specifications.  It teaches us consequences because our mistakes have clear results that only happen from mistakes and nothing else.

When I make a new batch of beer, the process is long and, similar to cooking, doesn’t truly take form for hours, and doesn’t even begin to become assessable for perhaps weeks.  Sometimes, I am tempted to worry.  Did I do everything correctly?  Did I forget anything?  Did I sterilize my equipment well enough? Is the storage area cool enough? Will this turn out like I want it to?

The lesson I am taught here is that, in life and in Brewing, there are often more questions and more analysis than there are answers and results.  Because results come slowly but the production of answers come quickly and often endlessly, there is a key lesson to internalize if we are going to maintain our center.

Sometimes we just don’t know how things will turn out and that’s okay.

If my beer doesn’t turn out like I wanted it, perhaps the result will be something else that’s enjoyable, or perhaps it will be spoiled.  If it is enjoyable, of course it’s easier to celebrate.  If it is spoiled, then it is less inspiring — but perhaps it doesn’t have to be.  When my beer ends up not turning out, I think perhaps I learn the most.  I take some time to go over why I think that might be, assess the equipment and the steps I took, and consider what I might’ve done different.

All to often, when I am thinking about my mistakes, I find answers to questions I hadn’t even thought to ask!

Philosophy drips from the Brewing experience and our hearts can easily internalize the lessons of the process into the rest of our lives.


The Brewmaster Monk is a tanking class in World of Warcraft.  After you read the rest of this post and then came to here, you’re probably thinking “This definitely doesn’t fit the rest of the blog — especially philosophy!” 

Well, maybe you’re not.  But the Brewmaster Monk has an interesting play style, especially as we move into the Legion expansion.  Without boring you with too many mechanics, the simple idea is that you gain the attention of enemies so your allies don’t get harmed and you use various alchemical brew concoctions to deal with the damage of so many enemies at once.

Conceptually, it’s very similar to the Zhu Quan style of Kung Fu.  We stagger about, minimizing and delaying the damage we receive from our enemies, confusing them with our random beer drinking and surprisingly accurate and powerful strikes.

Philosophically, the gameplay style can be viewed as a kind of perspective on the role of a protector.  When we think about the role of a protector in a fantasy world, we usually think about Knights and Warriors that use shields and swords as a bulwark against their enemies.  But the Brewmaster Monk exists outside of this fantasy.  He doesn’t wear heavy armor, he doesn’t use magic or strength to combat his foes.  He simply uses a life philosophy — to bend and not break, to redirect, to master his own energy and the energy of his enemies and to use this to wade confidently through the aggressive blows to emerge unscathed.

In life we can learn much from this.  Mastery of self is often a prerequisite for success in what we do.  If we cannot stand as ourselves against the scrutiny of the world or the challenges we face, then we are bound to become influenced and ultimately suppressed by them.  We must understand balance, both in ourselves and in our environment, so that we can understand the nature of what we must do.  The winds can toss us around but not damage us, but we may need to act, or we may be carried away by the gusts.

Knowing when and how is the philosophy I have learned from the Brewmaster Monk.



All of the elements of this blog steer towards philosophy in some way.  In the beginning, I spoke about that Incubus song, If Not Now, When? and we saw that the song beckons us to act now on the things we need, regardless of our past feats and failures.  In my life, I have found that I must remind myself that even after I’ve done this, I must continue to do it.  Acting now is not an action, it’s a way of life.  It’s a dogma of idealism that asks us to inventory ourselves and the world around us and to shed the inhibitions we face.  If we can master this in ourselves, then we are truly free — free from pain, regret, and fear.  We are courageous.

We are alive.


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Our Haunting Past

There’s a quote I recently read that went something like this:

“We can’t be sure that tomorrow will ever come unless we make sure that it comes today.”

I’m paraphrasing.  It caught my eye because of its clever play on words and the ideology behind it.  It seems to me that often, we say to ourselves — in our minds, towards our lives — that things will be better when a certain criteria is met, a thing is achieved, or a event takes place.  “My marriage will get better as soon as we get a new house together, I’m sure of it.” … “I’ll stop using drugs when I get a new job, that will be when I stop.”

What is it about ourselves and our habits that require great catalysts in order to change?  Why must we procrastinate what we know must be done until ‘tomorrow’ when we know that without choosing a specific date, tomorrow never becomes today.

Compounding the issue is that when we do not take that step and turn tomorrow into today, we eventually reach a catalyst we never wanted.  When we put off what we need to, life has a way of eventually forcing the things that need to happen, and it doesn’t care what breaks along the way.

Sometimes when this happens, we react poorly — far worse than we would have if we had done it ourselves — and then we find ourselves looking back at the past with regret.  This regret breeds and festers into suffering, sometimes for years.. sometimes for our whole lives.

In this way, our past haunts us.  Your logical mind can explain away everything you see.. but reliving it is inevitable.

But what if there was a way to shed the past’s hold on you?  To obliterate the suffering that you feel.  Camille Willemain of ThisAmericanGirl is a wonderful writer that recently talked about heartbreak and how freeing it can be.  If you haven’t seen her blog, I suggest reading it, she’s incredibly insightful.  She talks about how incredible heartbreak — the kind that you can barely breath through — was what drove her to make great and absolute change in her life.  She didn’t say that she abolished the catalysts of her life that lead to them, she said she used terrible situations to find her best self.  To learn how to love herself.

What we can learn from our past is exactly what will set us free.  But it doesn’t start with the past — that’s already happened and you can’t change it no matter how much you want to.  It’s the opposite, in fact.  You must accept every single ounce of the past as real — as happened, and done, and over.  And then, you have to forgive yourself for it all and tell yourself that today — not tomorrow, not some day — today you will take your  first step towards being what you’ve always known you could be.

Whether it is to be a more appreciative lover, someone who faces their past, their lies, their fears, or someone that finds their moral center — we’ve all got improvements we’ve been putting off.

Perhaps each time the past haunts you, it does so not to torture you, but to remind you that you still have some business to face — to sift through, to admit to yourself, to confirm, to find closure with, or to accept completely — before you can begin healing.  Your heart is trying to tell you how to mend yourself, to force you to face the things you have experienced.  Shed your fear and brave the past.

To begin to wade through the difficult memories, you might want to start by talking about them.  Not to yourself, with your mind’s voice, but to someone, or to no one.  Consider writing it it out, as if you’re telling someone else.  As if you’re telling the people who perhaps you could never otherwise talk to.  Write them a letter and tell them your every thought.  Anytime those memories come back, instead of suffering within them, turn to them and ask them what they want; face them and allow them to flow from writhing in your mind to words on a paper, an activity you enjoy, or a voice to a friend.

And then after you’re done with that thing, and you’ve gotten them out, set them aside and face the rest of your life.  Your life won’t stop because the past is haunting you.  Doing this will teach your mind and your heart that you will handle the memories when they come, but that they will not control you.

Above all else.. love yourself, forgive yourself, and accept that every person makes mistakes — even really bad ones — including you.  Including me.  Including every other human being you have ever met.

Starting today, you can take the first step to being who you want to be, not who your memories tell you that you are.

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A Heartfelt Farewell to a Master Storyteller – Chris Metzen to Retire from Blizzard Entertainment

Earlier today, it was reported via Twitter and WoW Head that Chris Metzen, Senior VP of Story, the Voice of King Varian Wrynn and Thrall, and cornerstone to the Warcraft Universe, will be retiring after 23 years at Blizzard.

He is a staple in the Blizzard Community and he describes himself as little more than a Dungeon Master. If you look over his career, he just really loved creating worlds. What a perfect position for him.

No doubt the fans and the company will miss him and likely consult with him here and there, but we have enjoyed his guiding hand for 23 years of amazing gaming. Let his family have his brilliance to themselves now.

Before long, we may just see a young Mr. or Ms. Metzen in the credits of our favorite Blizzard titles. Cheers to Chris and to all of the Warcraft Community that have rallied behind him to offer him the best as he begins a new chapter in his life.

For the fans of Warcraft and of Blizzard, this tugs on our heartstrings strongly.  No doubt, we can all experience the creative works of Chris Metzen in everything we encounter in the Warcraft universe.  For me, specifically, this is a moment of reflection. Not just on Warcraft or on the results of a tireless career.  But on the very nature of legacy.

Few of us can be sure of what our legacy will be. Most of us hope that the work we do, the energy we pour into something, and the dedication we have, will all mean something.  Personally, I hope the passions I explore in my life will make an everlasting impact on people around me, hopefully enriching their lives.  It’s inspiring to see that with enough work, our passions can touch the lives of others and our deeds can live on in the stories we sculpt. As a writer, I admire Chris Metzen’s passion for story and for world design.  As a player, I admire his artistic nature and the subtle references to bigger futures.  And as a human being, I am humbled by the impact one man can have on the hearts of millions, just by doing what he is passionate about.

Shift, Comma, Three, Mr. Metzen. And thank you.

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Patience; Discipline; Compassion.

Life is hectic, there’s no doubt about that.  Being organized in life can be difficult and it seems as I personally walk through life, I find I am acutely aware more each day that no one really has it all figured out.

When I was young, I felt like the exception.  I felt like I was somehow lagging behind everyone else, and that I needed to put forth greater effort to achieve what my peers were. Perhaps it was true, or perhaps it was a product of our society’s natural critical personality, but it has taken great lessons in my life for me to realize that who I am, where I am, and where I am going is all okay.  As long as I am going there for me, and not for someone else.

Once I found my center and found that I can accept myself – worts and all! – I found that a massive weight had been lifted.  I was no longer bound by the limitations and expectations of the world around me.

But I felt like there was more I could do to bring this awareness to the forefront of my life.  This is the essence of this blog post today.  I center this awareness around three major tenants: Patience, Discipline, and Compassion.

Let’s start with Patience.

Whether you’re an adept in your life, brilliant and thriving, or whether you struggle with your inner confidence, odds are you have tried to find, or even assert your dominance in your social settings.  Sometimes its slight exaggerations about your accomplishments or who you are, other times its taking a little more offense than one might expect to criticism.   It is understandable to feel these things because we often struggle with our sense of equality in a world where everyone scrutinizes and criticizes everything.

The time will come when you will be on the receiving end of someone else’s need to find their equality.  They may struggle with a chain of mistakes, or they might be a bit more apprehensive towards a topic, or their confidence may waiver.  When this time comes, start with patience.  Have the awareness to see it for what it is and do not judge them harshly.

Our hearts are often blocked while we are surrounded by our peers; we’ve been trained this way because, as children, we probably experienced nearly constant peer pressure and judgement.  Some people can brush this off with ease, while others can be made to feel smaller under the weight.

Have the patience to let them spread their wings without bias or criticism, even if they stumble.  Help them, don’t swat them down.  You will be surprised at how quickly they will grow.

Discipline is next.

Moving along with our point, discipline of self is the first step in both representing confidence and maintaining a steady image of yourself.  Search deeply and find who you want to be and then have the courage and dedication to commit yourself to that person.

No matter what you have done in your life, no matter what mistakes you have made, no matter what you have been through, you can always stop, reset, and focus your energy on becoming the person you know in your heart you should be.  

Don’t let yourself become distracted by it, or to procrastinate it.  It will only become harder and harder to take that step.  Now is the time! Not tomorrow, not in a week, not after that life event you’re expecting.  Now.

Compassion is the last point and a powerful punctuation to this life lesson.  Compassion is necessary in all we do, yet it seems it has become less and less abundant in recent history. While compassion is often considered to be an external trait — that is, a trait that we perform when regarding others — it is equally as important to be compassionate with yourself.  Forgive yourself for your own mistakes.  They say we are our own worst critics, but we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves that we beat ourselves down long before the rest of the world gets a chance.

These three points: Patience, Discipline, Compassion are not individual lessons, segregated from one another.  They are cohesive and close.  They are a unified path.  We must have the patience, discipline, and compassion to accept others, to find ourselves, to stand in the truth of who we are, what the world is, and how we want to live our lives within it.  We will stumble, but we will rise.  Take your lessons in stride and never lose sight of your goal.  Do this, and your happiness is assured and you will always be your best self, so long as you are always true to yourself.

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The Counters of Nature

If we think about the nature of all things, we are sometimes confronted with what we believe to be hard limits.  We feel that the boundaries of reality are clearly defined and that there is only one perception of this.  Too often we redefine these boundaries as discoveries are made, both in our personal lives and in the greater world around us.

Consider what ‘Power’ means.  If approached as a perspective, power can be anything from a state of mind, to control, to peace, to dominance.  It can be destruction, or it can be salvation.  But is power the ability to perceive, or is it the ability to negotiate obstacles?

When we’re faced with challenges that sometimes seem insurmountable, often we give them a kind of power, either through their influence over us or the respect they demand.  We counter this by eventually coming to terms with the true nature of its power; that is, gradually realizing that it has none.

In Kung Fu, powerful strikes can be negotiated in many ways.  The least effective is force-on-force.  We do not strike power with power.  We negotiate it by redirecting the flow of its energy or we use our frame to absorb its potency, often while expending very little return energy.

So, who has the power then?  The strike, or the block?   The attacker, or the defender?

This is the nature of counters and balance.

If a strike is received without response, the power lies in the blow and not in the reception of it.  If a strike is mitigated in some fashion, then the power resides with he who absorbed it, yet the power is not in the absorption of the blow itself as much as it lies within the ability to bend.

I am reminded of the story of the Reed and the Oak with this truth.  As the winds blow across a meadow, the reed is whipped about, where the Oak stands firm, swaying in the breeze.  The oak scoffs at the reed, relishing in its power.

One day a violent storm comes along, and the winds crash against the reed and the oak alike.  As before, the reed whips about, following the contours of the wind as it buffets against the reed.  The oak stands firm, confident that it can stand against the fury of the this storm as it had many times before.

But bit by bit, the oak is dismantled; its strength fading.  The winds chip at its smaller branches, tear its leaves from its limbs, and even pull whole arms from its trunk.  The Oak cries out at its losses.

When the storm passes, the oak is left in disrepair, its pieces scattered across the meadow.  Standing beside it, unharmed, is the reed.  The oak beholds the reed in a new light.. seeing that strength is valuable, but so is compromise.  Being sturdy is necessary, but being flexible is true strength.

At first glance, our lesson seems to lie nearly completely with the reed. The oak was foolish and the reed was wise.  The oak was overconfident and the reed was humble. The oak was the student and the reed was the teacher.

But perhaps this distinction is too simple.  The oak has taught us much — perhaps even more than the reed.   The oak showed us measurement and contrast as much as the reed did.  Were the meadow in our story to only have reeds, the lesson would be lost. If the meadow was a single oak, the lesson would have been lost.

Power doesn’t come from embodying the natures of a single perspective.  Wisdom does not come from subscribing to a single ideal.  True power — true wisdom — comes from learning to see the lessons that life has to teach us no matter the teacher.  The truly wise are the never-ending students of life.

And such brings us back to the nature of balance.  To truly be a teacher, you must never stop being a student.  To truly be a student, you must be able to behold the teacher in all things.