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.

Smile.

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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.