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 Meaning of Happiness

What a broad title, huh?  You probably read this with some mixed emotions.  Is this going to be philosophy?  Is it an idealist’s take on it all? Is it sarcasm?

The answer is: Yes.  While I can’t honestly speak for everyone, I have recently reflected on myself and I’ve found some really amazing things.  Things that ultimately lead me to finding my own place in the world.  Let’s start from the beginning.

A few years ago I began to reinvent myself.  I went through some pretty bad times and had some emotional break downs and when I emerged on the other side, I came to the conclusion that I needed to know who I really was beyond that which was regularly beaten down by the world.  I’ve always been a spiritual person and I have been a Zen Buddhist for many years.  So, it’s no surprise that I found my biggest clue by looking inward and asking — and facing — the hard questions.

First, I needed to know what I wasn’t.  I scanned through my past, and I looked at who I saw.  Not just the parts that I was OK with, and not just the parts that I was ashamed of.  But all of it!  I saw myself as someone whose happiness was defined by external sources; by attachments that I talked myself into thinking I didn’t really need, but I might as well enjoy while I had them.  The truth was, I did need them and when they were taken from me, I felt a massive void in myself.  But was this who I was?

No, of course not.  My suffering came from being who I wasn’t.  My conclusion in my search to find what I was not lead me to learn some key things about myself:

  1. I am not weak.
  2. I am not helpless.
  3. I do not need someone else to define my happiness.
  4. I do not need to sacrifice all of myself for someone else’s happiness.

Armed with this knowledge, I had a foothold in my self reflection.  I probed further, needing answers.  I arrived at a series of true self assessments that ultimately surrounded some fundamental necessities.  Before I could ever understand who I was, I first needed to forgive myself. You probably read that and thought “What did you do that you need to forgive yourself?”  The answer isn’t as obvious as you think.  It’s not some crime, or secret thing I have been harboring, but it might as well have been.

All my life I have taken the blame for my own self-destruction.  I had internalized all the pain I had gone through and had made myself out to be a victim, while secretly and simultaneously feeling guilty for doing that, knowing deep down that it wasn’t the right path.  I compromised my values and I let people use me as a doormat.  I let fear, anger, depression rule my life instead of embracing happiness.

I forgave myself because I didn’t know how to be happy.  I had only ever known sadness and conflict in my life and so I thought it was all I could ever know.  I thought it was the only way I could feel.

Truth is, happiness is a choice.  Once I forgave myself and accepted that all my mistakes, flaws, problems, and issues were part of the whole.  I no longer tried to cut those pieces of myself out of my life, or pretend they didn’t exist.  I accepted myself fully.  And when I did, this really amazing thing happened: I felt complete.

So now that I’ve looked into myself and forgave myself for all of my flaws and mistakes, the next step was to bring myself some real love.  Not love from someone else, but love from myself, to myself.  To do this, I had to be my own friend.  I had to teach myself to treat myself like I would treat my best friend.  I began this radical movement of compassion towards myself.  I felt the things I felt, and I embraced them and comforted them as one might do a friend going through a hard time.  And guess what? I appreciated my own sense of compassion, which only furthered my happiness.

The next step was true independence.  I had met my true self; both emotionally, psychologically, and metaphysically, but how did I maintain that image in the presence of someone else whose energy would surely try to dissuade me from my own ideals?  I found the answer in understanding how to stand with myself.  To that end, I refused any relationships of any kind until I was happy, comfortable, and enjoyed being alone with myself first.

Fast forward the better part of a year, and I am blessed to know real happiness every day.  I wake up happy that I have something in my life worth living for and that I have an everlasting source of happiness that can never be taken from me.

Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do, first for the other fellow and then for ourselves.
–Hellen Keller


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Intelligence vs Ignorance

During a conversation with someone on the ambiguity of Ignorance vs Stupidity, this portion of the topic came up.  This is just a snippet of a larger conversation, but I thought it summarized a point of view I’d like to capture here.

/.Begin./

Perhaps I will be judged for what I am about to say, but it has been my experience that a great many people do not have a thirst for knowledge. I have found true enjoyment in my need for learning. It has fostered my ability to hear that I am wrong, internalize it, and also be OK with it, contrary to the personalities I find. It also drives me to fact check myself and others.

I do this not just because I love to learn, but because there is a lot of Grade A Bullshit in the world, and face value wants you to believe everything you hear. I don’t ever believe anything that anyone says to me, no matter what they are saying, or who they are, simply because they said it. I believe it because I have either found it to be true myself or researched it and have drawn the same conclusion. Even then, I am willing to hear opposing sides that challenge that view, but I will also be equipped to counter with my experiences, or with what I had found in research.

What about first-hand knowledge vs hearing it from someone else?  Experience is absolutely important, but not always practical. Forming our own opinions by gleaning as much information as we can, however, can be made practical with perspective.

For example, if you told me that water density has one of the biggest impacts on global climate, that would be face value. Even if I respected you more than any other human being on the planet, and had never known you to take shortcuts in your speech, I would want to know that what you’re saying is true, and more importantly, why that’s true.

I can’t very well go analyze water density around the world to discover how it impacts climate, but I can research it on my own. I can discover that salt water that is heavier and enables colder water to sink and warmer water to rise, fueling strong currents to carry warmth from the equator up towards northern (European) countries that, without this constant supply of warmth, would be frigid and cold. I can learn, through multiple perspectives and unbiased investigation, that polar ice caps melting slowly modify the density of the ocean at certain points, causing this current to naturally change in depth. I can learn that this is one part of a much larger global climate discussion that I am not engaged with.

Perhaps years ago, this mentality would have manifested in different ways. As scholars who spent countless years of their life researching thoughts, ideas, and theories, perhaps. We are in the Information Age now, and I have endless knowledge at my fingertips. With critical thinking, common sense, and a mind to discover reality and truth in an unbiased way, I can abate ignorance in favor of knowledge any time I want. And so can anyone else.

Collectively, this ought to make us smarter, right?  I often wonder if it makes us lazy, as a people. Perhaps time will tell.

When we start off as human beings, such as infants and toddlers, we are curious creatures. Complacency, social pressure, and pack minds are what lead us away from our curiosity, I think. People want to tell you what they’ve found, and you can feel their enthusiasm. Its usually rude or disrespectful to tell someone they’re wrong. You’ll be perceived as argumentative and social opinion of you will suffer.

However, if we can shed the sheep’s clothing and stand as ourselves, not as the person pushed around by the opinions and misleading factoids of others, we can solidify our identity, our opinions, and our beliefs as founded from within, not from without.

Earlier I made a reference to a misquote and paraphrased version of the Kalama Sutra (a Buddhist/Dharma text), often attributed incorrectly to Buddha (Gautama Siddharta), that says:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

The actual text in Kalama Sutra reads:
“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”

You may be wondering why I’m making references to Buddhism randomly in a conversation about ignorance vs intelligence. The reason for the reference is two-fold.

First, the advice in both statements is, to me, great advice to heed, because I have found in my life that these things are true. Whether you subscribe to either passage, or even both, the idea of paddling your own canoe is a noble one and honestly, the one that truly defines you, in my opinion.

Second, to point out the difference of the misrepresentation of the original quote. The irony here is that it is a quote to tell you not to believe anything you read simply because you read it, and it is itself a falsely referenced quote (maybe intentionally done to reinforce the conundrum its offering, but that’s a tad conspiracy theory, isn’t it?).

TL;DR: See with your eyes, hear with your ears, feel with your fingers, and greatly and meticulously observe and experience your whole reality as much as possible.  Do this and you may just find that the words of others have little to no sway over the person that you become.

Then again, if you do decide to do this, will you have done it because I said to, or because you believe you should?

Ah, and so the paradox persists.


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One team, one fight.

The title needs work, I think.  But I’ve had this vision of WoW characters being able to merge.  It’s two separate scenarios, really.

 

Scenario 1.

The first one follows the theme of many Final Fantasy games.  You level a character, and you level the jobs (read:classes) separately.  It is a lot of work — more work than leveling a single character with a single class.  Imagine if you will, leveling a priest.  Now, you choose a race, you choose priest, you level from 1-level cap, and you train your professions and you work on achievements and you collect toys and transmog and bags and raid and play and fight and do all the things that the game has to offer.  Over time, you’ve accomplished a lot on this character.  But, you tire of playing a priest all the time, and you want to try something else.

So, you make a new character.  You choose the race you want and you choose mage, and you level your mage from level 1 again and you pick different professions and you repeat a lot of the same content again and you’re re-awarded achievements, and you have to re-level your professions, and you can never, ever catch that mage up to the priest you spent so much time on, no matter how hard you try.  And even if you do, by the time you’ve effectively made the mage your new main, the priest still has all that time played, all that work an effort.  And now it sits.

Sure, you can log on the priest and play it too.  But, with the exception of achievements, toys, pets, and (some) mounts (and that’s not always either), the two are mutually exclusive.

Now, lets tweak this scene.

So you start the game, pick a race, pick a class (priest) and off you go.  You play the game to your heart’s content.  You negotiate many obstacles, encounter awesome things that are unique to your gaming experience.  You’ve raided, you got your realm firsts and your feats of strength, you and your raid team were the first to step food in that new raid.  You are loving life.  But, playing the priest gets a little boring, so you decide to try something new.

So, you change your alternate spec to a mage.  Suddenly you’re scaled to a level 1 mage.  You have all the same restrictions as a level 1.  You can no longer get into that raid unless you change specs(classes).  You start leveling again.  This time you take a different path for leveling and you explore different quest lines, you unlock new transmog options for both your priest and your mage (cloth wearers after all).  You get to max level and you set your loot specialization to be Arcane Mage.  Sometimes you raid with your guild as a priest, collecting gear for the mage, (not that they’re so different, but you see what I mean).  One day, you go to raid and they say they have a new healer that wants to play in the raid team.  You say “No problem, I’ll change to mage.” You still get that Ahead of the Curve achievement on your main character even though you mage’d it instead of priest’d it.

The second scenarios is not offering you a faster means to anything.  You still level your classes just like you’d have done on a separate character.  The difference is, your time played, your professions and skills, your quest collection, your transmog, your non-account-wide achievements, they’re all still there.  All the rep you gathered? STILL THERE.

“But, what if I want to play a different race?”

This would be a great reason to make a second character.  Because you want to actually have two characters in two spaces.

“But I like having them separate”

You can keep them separate if you want! This isn’t suddenly prevented.

“Wouldn’t I eventually run out of quests to do?”

Sure, unless they made quests only count once for your Lorewalker and only award the rep for the first time completion, instead of making the quests vanish forever.  (This also allows for you to complete quest lines that you really liked again!)

 

Scenario 2

The 2nd scenario is similar to the other one, but requires that you’d have leveled other characters ahead of time.  This is more for people who have a million alts and really just want one main.  I’m in this boat!  I have a 90+ of every single class and across all my characters over 400 days played.  But not a single character has more than 180 days played.  I also have a ton of fish caught across all my toons.  And I grinded rep from various expansions across all of them.  I have a paladin I played in vanilla, and a hunter in BC, and a Paladin/DK/Mage combo I played in Wrath, and a Shaman in Cata, and a Monk in MOP and beyond (A brewmaster, in fact 😉 )

Well as it stands, I have to grind out SO MUCH REP on that Monk to have any chance of catching him up to my Paladin, or my Shaman.  Or to all of them.  I don’t even PLAY those characters anymore! I just keep them because I’m afraid if I delete them, then I’ll lose the FoS and Achievements, and all the nostalgia.  But imagine if my time played, and all the statistics, and your rep, achievements (as though you got them, not just account wide), and everything unique to that character, could be transferred to another at the cost of deleting that character.

You aren’t skipping any steps.  You are simply re-allocating the work to a different character.

 

Anyway, that’s my long winded post.  Tim next time.