The Wandering Monk

Brewmaster Rysu – New Posts On Tuesdays

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Where We Stand

It has been a long time since I’ve posted. 11 months, to be exact. In that time, so much has changed that I’ve honestly forgotten where I was when last I posted here. All I know is … things have changed.

Or have they?

I took this picture of a Sunrise over Philadelphia. I’m visiting for some training, you see, and haven’t seen a Pennsylvania sunrise in some time.

Here’s a recent picture of the sunset in Alaska, only a week or so before the above picture.

If we were to compare the two scenes, we can see some interesting parallels and some stark contrasts. The golden-amber sun of both pictures casts radiant beams of light towards us in both pictures. It seems to touch all that we see, physically, like little fingers of warmth offering the softest reassurances.

In the first picture, it’s industrial, isn’t it? Buildings, cars, few trees, clear skies. Yet still a beautiful sight to behold and one that can easily beacon a smile if you let it.

In the second picture, it’s wild, isn’t it? Grassy, rolling hills giving way to a sleeping forest, tumbling mountains standing sentinel in the distance. The clouds are full and swelling, and capture the sunlight in a myriad of ways.

Isn’t it interesting how different things are between those two pictures, when all that has changed is where we are standing, when we are looking, and how we are seeing.

Consider what this lesson can lead to in our own lives.

What would you say if I said that everything you see, experience, love, and fear will all be gone — and no one knows when? What would you say if I said that you’re living in a dream world that you created — that it is changing. And what if I said that no matter how much everything changes — and it is always changing! — that you have the power to see it through whichever lens you decide?

You have the power to see the beauty in all that is around you, even if you’re seeing from a different place than you had been before.

So, here’s to taking a step back, maybe even two, and maybe even one to the right or left. Here’s to smiling at something that you’ve seen a thousand times, just because this time you’re seeing it in a different light, from a different place, or in a different frame of mind.


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The Energy of Our Intentions

Does what we say really matter?  Do other people’s thoughts and intentions really have a significant impact on the world around us?  It’s just sound, right? It’s just opinions.  It can’t hurt us.  ‘Sticks and Stones’ and all that, right?

Well, interestingly, there’s a scientist and positive thinker named Dr. Masaru who did an experiment with three beakers of rice with water in them.  It was the same amount and type of rice and the same water from the same source.

The first beaker he said “You’re a fool” and other such unkind words every day to.  The next, he thanked genuinely.  And the last, he completely ignored.

After one month, the results were in.

The rice inside of beaker he spoke kindly to had begun to ferment and gave off sweet aromas.  The rice inside of beaker that he was unkind to was stale and black.  And the rice inside the beaker that he paid no mind to was rotting and decaying.

What does this tell us?

I believe it drives home two very important lessons.  The first is that our energy and our intentions DOES shape our physical reality.  From self-fulfilling prophecies to evoking the universe to lend us the positivity we ask for in life.  When we do anything from the heart, that is the result we get.  If we are hateful and cruel to others, then that energy is what will be reflected back by the universe.  When we are kind, then kindness returns.  Such is the way of karma and it exists in every possible measurement!  From the atomic level to the astronomical.

The second lesson is that all things respond most to energy and less to indifference and neglect.  Neglect was the worst of the rice experiment.  The black rice fed on the energy the scientist was giving it and reflected it, whereas the rice that was ignored simply decayed.

The old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” may need to be replaced with “If you don’t have anything nice to say, find something nice to say!”

In ancient Japan and in cultures all over the world, we have been privy to some fundamental folk-lore truths.  Evil and bad things were always dark or black.  Monsters lived in the dark, criminals always wore black, etc.  Could it be that this view point was first discovered by our great ancestors when they learned about the power of the spoken word? Of the power of intention and energy? And they weren’t speaking metaphorically, but physically!

Have you ever wondered why we feel the way other people are feeling sometimes?  Why we have such empathy and compassion at times for the suffering of others?  I believe that this energetic response is a way for the universe to balance the greater cosmic happenings.  I believe that, as a whole, if we want to survive as a species, we must learn the truth of how energy affects the world around us and how we, in turn, impact the greater universe.

The Power of Positivity has more studies that conclude similarly — I implore you to look at those and do some additional research to see what I’m saying.

Talk to you soon.


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Suicide: What are we thinking?

If you haven’t heard, I am sorry to be the one to tell you.  Co-Lead Singer and powerful, dynamic vocalist Chester Bennington of Linkin Park was found dead this morning.  The cause of death was apparent suicide.

Prior to his death, Linkin Park released a new album titled “One More Light” and the song for which the album was named was about those who endure the suicide of their loved ones and coping with such loss and anger that must follow.  It was penned by Chester, presumably about his close friend Chris Cornell, who committed suicide two months before.

I won’t even pretend to know what Chester was going through — whether through his loss of his close friend, or from any of the other demons he must have been privately facing — but there is something to be said about a man who has always had a way of describing and and writing about emotions that plague us all in deep, yet simple methods.  We can hear a variety of Linkin Park songs and find notes that touch private places of our emotional memory and give us a kind of empathy.

It’s through this connection to Linkin Park that we’ve grown with them over the years.  And it’s only through this connection that we can peer into the emotional surface of Chester’s ocean of unknown emotional depths.

Consider that Chester knew full well what agony those who survive a loved one’s suicide go through — first hand, as he has only recently gone through it — yet he decided to go through with it.  Consider what torment he must have had and how much he must have agonized over it.  Who knows if he had these ideations when he was writing “One More Light” or if they came around after his friend’s death.

We may never know what he was thinking or what he was going through.  Even if he spelled it out for us, we would be a third party to the private rollercoaster he was on, watching from afar and only hoping to understand it in some way.

What is more compelling still is that he isn’t a man who is ‘new’ to the emotional spectrum.  His entire life had, in some way, been a process of developing coping mechanisms with emotional situations.  He was no stranger to that battlefield.  Yet on the surface, he was able to be both calm and expressive, focused and creative.

And finally, what I find most compelling, is that such a face seen each day by his friend and family was one that hid such torment, inside a person so well tuned to the demons he was facing.  In many ways, others looked to him as an example — that if someone like him can make it, then we’ve all got a shot.

What are we thinking now?

I’m thinking that we must never forget that we know next to nothing about those we encounter each day.  I’m thinking that we must always remember that we all have our own demons to face and we must face them each and every day — and that just because we all have them, doesn’t make them any less dangerous for each of us.  And that if they win, that no amount of success or emotional intelligence can save us.

It’s in times like these that we should embrace compassion.  Keep the darkness from the edge of our sight by keeping the light of what makes our lives positive in our focus.

Perhaps in some way, we can look at the poetry of his death with a kind of beauty.  I mourn the loss of such a talented and creative person, and I do not celebrate the loss.  But a man who can write an album that comforts his dearest friends and family and faces his end while honoring his close friend’s death.. well, let’s just say it’s one, final example of his beautiful mind and his expressive heart, as tragic and as punctuated as it is.

I’ll end this post with the lyrics from ‘One More Light’.  Mr. Bennington, where ever you are, we love you and we miss you.  Thank you for sharing so much of your gift with the world.

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LINKIN PARK – One More Light

Should’ve stayed, were there signs, I ignored?
Can I help you, not to hurt, anymore?
We saw brilliance, when the world, was asleep
There are things that we can have, but can’t keep

If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do

The reminders pull the floor from your feet
In the kitchen, one more chair than you need oh
And you’re angry, and you should be, it’s not fair
Just ’cause you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it, isn’t there

If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do

Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do

Well I do

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The Contrast of Perception

Perhaps I’ve talked about this a lot.  Perhaps I’ve even talked to you about it directly, depending if you’ve known me long enough.  If so, you’ll know that I look at perspectives with an inquisitive mind.  Perhaps it’s a bit abstract, but I try to see the world in terms of cause and effect.

With this in mind, one general rule I’ve come to rely on is that people gain perspective and learning experiences based almost completely on how sharp the contrast between what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘extreme’.

For example, if a boy grows up his whole life being screamed at by his parents or in a noisy, squabbling sort of household, he might not be as affected when, in his adult life, he is again yelled at.  He will have generated coping mechanisms that he uses to get through it.  He becomes callous to it.  Sure, it will probably also not help him heal; he’ll probably be more prone to being reminded of that if it was traumatic for him, but realistically he’ll handle it better than a person who wasn’t yelled at at all in their lives and then suddenly gets screamed at.

Imagine you’ve never seen, felt, or in any way experienced fire.  Then someone gives you a glove and tells you to pick up a hot pan.  You don’t feel the heat of the pan because the glove insulates against it.  You’ve yet to learn that lesson.  The lesson that fire burns.

But then, once, you forget to put the glove on.  In your naivete, you grab the pan and the searing pain shoots through you like a thousand needles of screaming agony.  This shock instantly burns into your mind that you should not touch things that are hot, why safety is important, and what the consequences are for such a mistake.

Now imagine the opposite — you have the unique experience of having a family of metal workers who regularly involve you in their work.  Since a child you’re used to the heat and you’ve probably burned yourself hundreds of times, each one teaching its lesson.  In your adult life, you aren’t nearly as responsive to the occasional sting of fire.  You might touch a pan that’s too hot once, but you’ll be more tempered than our last example.

The driving point here is contrast.  If ‘normal’ is closer to the ‘extreme’, then the reaction is lessened. 

Think about this in terms of everything in our lives.  At work, I do IT.  Often, I’m called upon by the end user to fix problems.  Every single one of them says to me, in some way, “this is critical for me to do my job” or “I NEED this right now, or I can’t work.”

They’re doing this because they want to apply the shock of their situation to me, so that I am (I can only assume) more motivated to resolve the issue.  What they don’t realize is that it’s not motivating, it’s annoying.  I don’t like to complain, but in this, it seems like they’re insinuating that I’m some how not going to put their problem in the correct context.  I’m not going to give them the priority they think they deserve.  And they think that if they tell me all their worries and woes, that it’ll make me some how summon a greater sense of empathy and compassion that I already have for them, in order to get them what they want faster.

The truth is, I do my best to get everything done as quickly as I can, and psychological manipulation attempts don’t change how I do it.  But I also imagine that this works for other people, and that’s terrifying.  Imagine a world where people overreact to a self-proclaimed crisis and try to pull the fire alarm every time something even minor goes wrong.  That behavior teaches our children and shapes our culture to become alarmists and to stop developing coping mechanisms.  It enables panic as the first response instead of critical thinking and common sense.

It’s the opposite of an intellectual reaction.

My biggest challenge here isn’t the people who knee-jerk react.  It’s the people that support it.  There has to be a manager or a thinking person somewhere in the chain that says “Listen, I need you to calm down and put this into perspective.”

And this person should be the one that’s supported by his or her management.  Not the knee-jerk crowd who thinks stamping their feet and yelling louder is going to make a difference.

Talk to you soon.

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Cheering and Beering

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post that kept the “Brew” in “”, so I thought I’d share something that made me smile that’s right up that alley.

A friend of mine in Mexico heard I like to make the special brew on occasion, and said he has to come up to Alaska to try it some day.  It made me realize that, no matter where you’re from, there’s always a cheery, celebratory sort of feeling when it comes to enjoying a frothy mug with some friends.

I really don’t understand it fully, but there’s nothing quite the same as sampling the local pub or exploring the local microbreweries in search of a new creation.  Across the country and, indeed, across the world, there are always people willing to clink glasses and smile and laugh with you no matter who you are or where you’re from.

That kind of unity is baffling.  On one hand, the world is filled with violence and discrimination.  People are practically begging for excuses to hate each other.  But in those rare nook moments where you’re enjoying the intricate work of a brewing artist with a crowd of diverse people, that all seems to go away.

Maybe I’m wearing rose-tinted glasses, and things aren’t like I’m saying.  Maybe I just want them to be that way.  Heck, I’d make it my life’s work to brew beer if I knew it would help make the world a more peaceful place.  Maybe I still will.  Who knows?

All I do know is that I hope that everyone finds joy in the companionship of their friends and in the knowledge that I’ll toast to you no matter where you’re at.


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Give and Take

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘It’s all about the give and take’?  If you haven’t, now you have.  I used to think that this phrase was about balance and I even said as much before. But today I’d like to offer a different perspective on the notion.  I’m not withdrawing my previous observations as canon; think of it as a kind lighting adjustment.

I still do think that balance is the master work of the universe and that giving and taking are both equally important.  But I think this is specifically and especially true when it comes to the mindset one uses.

In a recent post I discussed how there are two kinds if people in the world: those who think for others and those who think of themselves.  Neither are bad.  It’s more about the manner in which we enact these things.  This could even seem like the ‘give and take’ we are talking about now, and in a way it is, but just not the same.

I watched a video of a man describing his father, who lived a very humble life.  It was a video on how we measure our success.  He approached his father and he said “Why are we not rich?” and the Father smiled and said “Who says we are not rich?” The boy looked around their slum apartment and at his meager life and exclaimed, “I do!” .. The father simply replied “Being rich is not about what you have, it is about what you give.  Give greatly and you will be richer than any man.”

The video goes on to demonstrate that the father asked his son to give a portion of how allowance to ‘tax’ (a small bucket).  The boy listened to his father, begrudgingly, and offered a bit of his allowance.

Years later, after his father passed away, he learned that he had donated a significant amount to a local home for people with disabilities and he was given an award for having given so much.  The man was astonished because he never knew about it.  His father would work and then go to the charity after work and dress up like a clown to make the children laugh and to perform magic tricks.  They adored him. They knew true happiness and joy because they were the recipients of someone’s true selflessness.

The boy decided he would continue in his father’s footsteps and began going to the home as well, finally learning the lesson his father’s life was teaching him.  His father was always happy and joyful, always laughed and smiled, despite having very little.  Now the son was able to finally connect with this part of himself too.

What can we learn from such a lesson? I believe it is that we can all benefit from the gift of selflessness.  If we can give and not expect something back, we will find that our happiness will be boundless.

Consider another story.

A boy is in the street being belittled by a shopkeeper for stealing medicine.  A soup merchant comes over and asks what the boy needed it for.  He replied that his mother was very sick.  The soup merchant pays for the medicine and gives the boy some soup.  The boy grabs the bag of contents and runs off without even a ‘thank you’.

Many years later, a man approaches the soup merchant and asks for soup because he is homeless.  The soup merchant gives him the soup for free and, after the man leaves, blacks out.  His daughter rushes him to the hospital and it turns out he is very sick.

After many days of tests, the bill for the potential procedure comes and it is very large — larger than the man or his daughter can afford.  The daughter despairs and laments, and begins making arrangements to sell the soup shop her father worked in for so long.  She returns to her father to find an envelope with a revised version of her bill.  Everything was paid for.

There is a note at the bottom of the bill that reads: “Paid for by a small bag of medicine, a bag of soup, and a kind deed never forgotten.”

The doctor was the boy he had helped so long ago, and covered everything.

The sense of karma in these stories is what I believe is the most striking.

Not because they are stories, but because these things actually happen.  The energy you put out is the energy you receive.  The charity you give is the charity you receive.  The more we live for ourselves, the less we seem to truly live and the less joy we seem to find.  Think on this, truly, and ask yourself when you’ve been most happy.

For me, seeing others happy has always been what makes my heart glow the brightest.

Until next time.

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Us or Them, Me or You.

I’ve had an interesting epiphany recently.  The kind of revelation that seems to help me make peace with the way people are in the world, despite the really tragic nature of humanity at times.  It’s something that I’ve been mulling over in my mind on my way to work each day and something that I think I’ve whittled down enough to jot down in a blog post.

The concept is about the fundamental nature of human beings, big and small.  It’s likely there is a philosophy concept that already outlines this but I have deliberately avoided researching in that direction because I wanted to come to the conclusion wholly on my own before finding it.

The concept is that there are only ever two kinds of ethical decision making roots:

  1. A decision rooted in doing something for others.
  2. A decision rooted in doing something for yourself.

Now, before I get too far ahead of myself, I’d like to put both of these into context.  There isn’t actually anything completely wrong or completely right about either of these views.  I’m not saying one is good and one is bad, or that one should be like the other.  Just that, depending on which is applied in what situation, one might have more of positive or negative ethical impact than the other.

Let’s talk about examples.

You’re walking down the street and there’s a man in front of you.  He reaches into his pocket for something and as he pulls his hand out, a $100 bill drops from his pocket and the wind brings it to you.  You catch it successfully and you know it came from the guy you’re behind.

You have two choices.  You can either keep it or you can give it back to him.

If you keep it, you’re thinking about yourself.
If you give it back, you’re thinking about other people.

Now, philosophy has a strong root in ethics analysis and we can analyze this in many ways.  We could come up with arguments for both sides on what is the ‘right’ thing to do.  One side will say that because the money wasn’t secured and left his pocket, it’s no longer his.  ‘Finders keepers’, so to speak.  Others will say that it’s not yours no matter how you got it, it wasn’t freely given to you so it isn’t yours.

Personally, I would have given it back to him. Let’s assume you do this.

After making that decision, we’re immediately thrust into another subconscious analysis.  Do we give it back because we genuinely want to do the right thing or think for someone else, or are we doing it because we secretly want something for ourselves?

Are we giving it back because it makes us feel good to do the right thing?  Are we giving it back because we secretly hope he’ll let us keep it if we demonstrate a ‘good’ moral character?  Do we hope he will ‘owe us one’ or will repay us in some other way for our actions?

Again we’re confronted with the ideal that either we’re doing something for someone else, or we’re doing something for ourselves.

We hand the money back to the man, and he is very grateful.  He may even make a few comments about how honest we are and how we need more people in the world like us.  These are nice things to say and demonstrate his ability to be gracious and humble when someone does something honorable.

Then, leaving it at that, he walks away with a last ‘thank you’.  You watch him go and you think… What?  Are you disappointed he didn’t do more? Are you saying “I won’t be doing that again, I didn’t get anything from him.” … did you have some other expectation that wasn’t met?

Once again we are faced with the notion of who we’re thinking about.

This brings me to my final conclusion: There are only two kinds of people in the world.  People who think only about themselves and people who think only about others.  Or, Consumers and Providers.

As Americans, our culture is that of consumers.  I think we can all agree that we wish the moral fiber of our society was stronger.  When we read on the news that someone did something selfless, we often feel inspired, don’t we?  We feel hopeful in our society’s future.  We feel happier on some level, I think.

But there are some who condemn the very act.  Some who say “That guy was an idiot, I would’ve kept that $100.  Who carries around $100, anyway? He didn’t need it”.  And so on.

On the WoW Facebook page, someone posted this:


The post erupted into a frenzy of replies, and as I read through them (and even commented on some), I noticed again two interesting points of view.  First, it was “I would’ve kept it, too bad.” and the second was “Of course I would give it back, it’s the right thing to do”.  Those legendary items are expensive and time consuming to make, and the guy obviously didn’t mean to put it up for 1 Copper.

The perspectives on the post weren’t just “Here’s what I would do”.. They were so emphatic about their stance, like there’s no possible other recourse. Any other recourse would be stupid, and the person who did it, an idiot for sure.

Some of the individuals who posted had more creative responses, such as “I’d trade him what it was actually worth” or “I’d give it back to him for 1,000 gold.  Way cheaper than [30,000 gold] but enough to teach him a lesson”.

Even inside of these responses, we can ultimately whittle down the decision making process to the two fundamental ideals.  Are they thinking of themselves, or are they thinking of the other person?

In the two examples of creative replies I posted, we see examples of both.  First, trading him the gold it was actually worth is what we’ll call ‘amicable selfishness’.  It’s doing the right thing while still getting what you were after.  It’s finding a middle ground.  In many ways, these kinds of compromises are where our decision making processes land and they’re probably the best place for them.

The second response, to give it back to him for 1,000 gold, could also take either side of the amicable selfishness.  He’s giving it back because his ethical position demands he does, but he’s making sure he understands the lesson of being thoughtless in his auction house posts.

But let’s play devil’s advocate here.  Let’s say the guy doesn’t want to sell the item (to the first response) or doesn’t have 1,000 gold (second response).  What if he just wants the item back because of another reason? Or if it was a mistake?

That’s where we discover the heart of the decision-making process of the person offering the solution.  This is where we learn if empathy or apathy play a stronger role in the core of the person.

If they gave it back anyway, they’re thinking for the other person.  If they kept it, justifying it by ‘I gave him a chance’ then they’re thinking about themselves.

The universe has an interesting way of handling micro-situations like these.  They undoubtedly happen every day, all the time, in every-day life.  Some people call it karma, some people call it consequence, some people call it energy.  Whatever you call it, we can all agree that what goes around, comes around.  Consider the Golden Rule passed from Confucius: What you do not want done to you, do not do to others.

In other words, treat others like you would like to be treated.

If we assume that everyone fundamentally follows this rule, then we can presume that people judge their ethical decisions based on how they value their own self worth.  If a person devalues themselves, they believe that they deserve the harsher responses and not the nicer ones.  They then treat people as though they expect to be treated.  Which perpetuates the energy they receive back.

The other half of that rule is “As you treat others, so will you too be treated.”  So we see that if we dislike ourselves, we treat others as though we dislike them as well.  When we treat them this way, they respond with the same sort of energy back to us.  This reinforces our view of ourselves, and the cycle continues.

Isn’t that view point just another way of acting only for ourselves and not for others?

Fundamentally, what I subscribe to ethically follows the thought process that, if you place others before yourself, that is the energy you give to the universe and that is the energy you will get back.  If you give others love, compassion, kindness, acceptance, and patience, you will get it back.  You will emulate what you receive, which will perpetuate an environment of just such a thing.  When you do this, you will feel better, and they will feel better.

This is just another example of how we are all connected.  If all the universe is a single entity, then we are just a wave to its ocean; a leaf to its branches; a petal to its flower.

Even in this state of mind, however, we are considering ourselves, but second, and constructively.  So combining the two fundamental ideas of how a person is, we can achieve a better environment by being the first to put the positive energy out there.  You can help yourself by helping others.  You can help yourself, and others will help you if you help them.

Consider this the next time you see an opportunity to help someone, even in a casual conversation.  Practice being mindful of the conversation and compassionate to the other side.  Don’t just listen placidly, waiting for your turn to talk, but instead, give them your full attention and thought, and respond after they’ve finished.

Be mindful, compassionately kind, and meditate often, and you’ll find it easy to embrace the world for their betterment and yours.

To learn more about this, head over to theSchureThing blog, where they talk about overcoming the ‘us’ vs ‘them’.  It’s a great read!

Talk to you soon.

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