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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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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Philosophy on Beer Making

It may come as a surprise to some that making beer is a little bit of everything.  It’s art, expression, science, alchemy, experimentation, and, ultimately, discovery.  It brings out the hippie, the wanderer, the mad scientist, and the underground rebel in you with every delightful moment.  And when the time comes that you sample a new sensation that was crafted by your own hand, there are no words to describe the delight.

We live in a world where many people expect formula to equate results and the absence of formulate to equate to the absence of results.  It is often expected that if you do X and Y with approved methods A and B, you will achieve result 1 and 2.  Anything other than those results is a failure.

But making your own beer steps outside this boundary.  It asks humbly that we forget the rigid boundaries of our linear thought processes and consider that the labels we have in the world are self-invented and that the world doesn’t always rest neatly into the boxes we created for it.

I discovered this truth when I tasted my first beer that I had crafted with my own hands.  I had been planning on following a formula and expected a specific outcome, but I had to make some adjustments because I did not have some of the ingredients I needed, nor the foresight to inventory my needs ahead of time.  I thought it would be a failure but I was determined, instead, to supplement my missing items with similar ones.  I tinkered with sugars and fermenting times in the past, and I was worried that having done so would result in a waste of time, money, and most importantly, beer.

When the time came, I sampled my work and I was blissfully surprised.  It was in that single moment that the epiphany hit me.  I knew that the world of boxes and boundaries that we have created to confine our understanding of our world were little more than guidelines — and that’s being generous!

Today I finished a Blonde Ale and I didn’t follow a recipe at all.  I had the basics I needed down, I had the idea of what I might do, but I really just winged it.  Today I sampled this brew and I let out the kind of sigh only a crafter sampling the results of his craft can let out.  I am blessed, my friends, and I hope that you all find this same simple joy.

What if we lived our whole life this way?  Live our lives while not being so obsessed with boxes and boundaries, with labels and formula?  Imagine how much larger and amazing the world would be when it is beheld as a single masterpiece and not a set of diced up pixels or droplets across an endless canvas! Imagine how vast the universe will feel when we bring down the walls of category and behold it as a single entity.

Imagine how beautiful life will feel when you realize that the internal and the external worlds are the same.. and that we are an expression of all that there is just as assuredly as the stars and the sky.

I breath deeply today, my friends, and I exhale knowing true happiness.


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Green Barley Whisper

Today I made this wonderful batch of tea that I’ve decided to call Green Barley Whisper.  It’s a marvelous blend of Roasted Barley, Greek Green Mountain, and Dried Cuban Green.  I’ve also added a dash of Mint for a delightful aroma and enjoyable after flavor.

There’s something serene in making something like this, I think.  I’ve spent hours trying to come up with the right mixture.  Some times I feel like a mad scientist, or a crazy alchemist, but now, even as I type this, I am sipping the results as the sky drips on the rooftop of my small apartment.

Breathing in the steaming scents, tasting the layered flavors, I can only smile at the experience.  I am thankful for such perspective.


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Five Palm Hard Cider

Today I finished up and taste tested a new Cider I made.  I’m calling it Five Palm Hard Cider, and it’s pretty good.  Subtle spice, aroma of sweet apples, and 8.9%/Vol so you’re in for a fun ride.

Here’s the label considerations.  Of course I won’t cell this because these images don’t belong to me, but its fun to dream.

 

Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions!