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.
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.
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.
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.