Category Archives: Other

Searching for The Crow

I was going through some old posts, trying to decide which ones to copy and archive, and decided to look at some of the stats for this blog. While I don’t get very many hits at all, I do get some unusual search items that take people here to my blog. I’ve compiled some of the more unusual below:

 

hooker  – (I had 8 searches for this, and I can’t figure out how/why. Maybe had something to do with the Courtney Love post I did…)

group bong – (there were about 18 different searches containing the word “bong”.)

kids with liquor – (makes parenting easy)

gulf of mexico death oil – (death oil is the most flammable type…)

truths about parenting – (there are none! buyer beware!)

right livelihood beer – (probably better than Busch)

fail french people – (yes.)

fly like a brit – (with an umbrella!)

make your own jataka tale – (hungry tigress not included)

two evil children – (I’d say ill-tempered rather than evil…)

fly like a crow, meaning (after 3 years I’m still trying to figure this one out…)

i cannot sit and do daimoku. (stand?)

drunk photography  – (friends don’t let friends drink and shoot)

job decrease death  –  (depends on the job I guess…)

butcher meat gross  –  (I much prefer accountant meat…)

who were the victims in Arizona  – (all the people that live there)

like fly a crow  –   (thanks!)

put back once done –   (my wife hates it when I don’t do that)

moose fight club  – (you already broke the first rule!)

i hate my religion nichiren shoshu stop forcing me  (no comment)

fatherhood failblog  –   (probably a much better name for this blog and almost certainly much more interesting….)

fly like an ego (it’s fly like an eagle Mr. Miller…)

gilda radner + book + zen (= disaster)

are you a wizard    –     (a wizard never tells!)

killing sperm isn’t murder but killing a fetus is?? how so?   (If so, I’m easily the world’s most heinous serial killer)

miss budweiser girls  (come for the dharma, stay for the eye candy)

killing sperm Buddhism  (again with the sperm)

christina taylor green dad there were four of us, now there are three  (sorry)

calling bullshit on the lotus sutra  (you can call, but I don’t think he’ll answer)

on the path of looking for what i wanted i found what i needed  (great!)

i hear my echo in the echoing wood meaning   (it means lay off the fucking shrooms)

what happens if crow sit in head and fly send reply   (I’ve got nothing)

my dad won’t be attending my baptism   (sorry)

bill maher likes beer  (me too)

to help prevent climate change, we should fly once a year  (with wings?)

epic fail Buddhist  (most appropriate search term for this blog ever)

 

 

Cheers.

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Heartwarming

Take 4 minutes out of your day to watch this short video about a principal in Las Vegas reaching out to her young students – over 80%  of which are homeless.

When I saw the children eating ketchup for lunch…it just crushed me…

 

 

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The long journey out of the self…

Today David over at The Endless Further has a wonderful post up about the magic found in poetry, please check it out if you have the chance.

image of Roethke sourced from jungcurrents.com

It got me thinking about one of my favorite poets, Theodore Roethke, whom I haven’t dealt much with in years. Roethke is from my hometown of Saginaw, MI, and there are places he mentions in his poetry that were literally my old stomping grounds:

Out Hemlock Way there is a stream
That some have called Swan Creek;
The turtles have bloodsucker sores,
And mossy filthy feet;
The bottoms of migrating ducks
Come off it much less neat.

I used to dig in Swan Creek for golf balls to sell to golfers at the nearby hole-in-the-wall course. My father went through the ice of the creek as a youth while snowmobiling. It is a beautiful yet unassuming body of water. It really is just a creek. Creek creeks creek.

Upon digging around for some of my favorite works of his, I ran across the following two gems, and couldn’t help but be struck by the similarity to some of the old Chinese Ch’an masters works. The first poem is titled Journey into the Interior

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
— Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.
The first thing that jumps out is right there in the first line, “journey out of the self”. The rest of the poem goes on to describe the traps and hazards our phenomenal mind throws at us in our attempt to escape its binding reach.
 
Another that I stumbled upon was In a Dark Time:
 
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood–
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks–is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is–
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

To me, this is all about finding the true self, making sense of the observer watching the observer phenomenon, feeling trapped that there is no hope, no way of getting to the Source.

Roethke suffered from depression not long into his life, fueled by the tragic deaths of his uncle and father that both occurred when he was 15. This colored many of his later works, though it is for his lighter, “greenhouse” poems that he is more well-known. These poems revolve around his direct experience and contact with nature and the beauty he found growing up around his uncle’s greenhouse in Saginaw (only a couple of miles from my childhood home). At the young age of 55, Roethke died of a heart attack in a swimming pool on Bainbridge Island, here in Washington. According to wiki the pool has since been covered and a Zen rock garden has apparently been placed on top. His remains are a stone’s throw from many of my great-grandparents and their siblings.

I’m not claiming that Roethke was Zen, or a Buddhist or anything of the sort. If anything he seemed to be a sort of pantheist or transcendentalist or something of that sort. But the problems that he digs at are universal, and strike at the heart of Zen. His desire to find pure Mind and make sense of it all mirrors the path of the 10 Ox Herding images well.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the magic that Roethke helped bring to the world. Cheers.

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Blood into Wine into Mind

 

Last night I watched the movie Blood into Wine. It’s the story of Maynard James Keenan and his partner-in-wine Eric Glomski and their journey into vinting. The movie itself is excellent, and tells quite the story. For those that don’t know, Maynard is the front man of the legendary rock band Tool, as well as A Perfect Circle, and the Ringmaster of his current solo project Puscifer. A quick read of his wiki pages lets you know that he also went to art school (paid for by his time in the Armed Forces) and tried his hand at stand-up comedy, inspired by Bill Hicks, someone he admired greatly. Truly a jack-of-all trades. At first mention, you might think that this was just another rock star putting his name on something he thought was cool in order to promote himself and earn a few more bucks. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Maynard fell in love with wine and then wanted to know more. Discover more. Put himself into it fully. For Maynard, this led to starting his own vineyard and winery.

For those of you that are familiar with Tool and Maynard, you know the air of mystery that surround his projects. Tool has gone out of their way to avoid the media side of the rock-industry. Rarely posing for photos, making interviews rare if any. At some shows they won’t even address the crowd. They simply come up on stage, play their asses off, and leave. A friend of mine went to see them in Michigan, and told me that Maynard spent almost the entire show behind the drum set, facing the back of the stage. But with the lighting and music and the entire experience, he said it really didn’t matter. If anything, it made the experience of the show even better.

This movie not only gives you a close look at two guys that are crazy about wine, but it provides a rare look at Maynard himself, with the mask he usually wears taken off. What we see is a man that is uncomfortable around people in so much that he really isn’t a people person. He seems to keep his circle close (even when that circle includes Patton Oswaltd and Milla Jovovich) and even when interacting with those, he lets others direct the conversation, mostly appearing that he’d rather be somewhere else. And if this movie is any indication, that somewhere else is digging in the dirt on his vineyard, picking grapes, planting vines and keeping animals from eating his crops.

Maynard does draw a couple of comparisons between his music and his vinting. He tells us that the process is very much the same in that with his music. It is an authentic process, one that is involved with discovering the medium fully (be it music or wine) while at the same time, leads him to a higher plane of self discovery. When you listen to Tool’s music, you can hear their jam-band element come across, and it almost seems as if the band is there just to support the music as it happens naturally; that they are just as much a part of the music as they are its creators. Maynard takes the same approach to his wine in that he isn’t out to please critics or change the world of wine, but rather to give life to something he put his whole being into.

There is something rather Zen Master about Maynard’s whole approach. He refuses to perpetuate his own celebrity status. Rather than appear on reality TV shows or VHI, he only feeds his fans a tiny morsel of himself, and lets them use their own magic to come up with the rest. He rarely answers questions directly; instead his answers come from the relative way in which he engulfs himself and his work. He seems much more interested in the process than he does the final product. This just reminds me that the principles at work in Buddhism can be found anywhere, and are indeed universal, no matter what their context.

Anyway, if you enjoy documentaries at all, you should see this movie. It’s a great introspective into one man’s life and passion, and regardless if you are a Maynard fan or not, you will appreciate the way this story plays out.

 

Cheers

 

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Elephant stampede! Crafting an online identity…

I have a post that’s been published on elephant journal! Check it out here. And a little teaser blurb:

And that’s why we love the online world and our online identities. Because they are easy. And they allow us to present ourselves in the best possible light, always making the right decisions. It’s easy to represent myself as a local-phile. It’s easy to represent myself as a serious student of the dharma. It’s easy to represent myself as someone that has a solid understanding of ‘x’, because everything I would need to know is a few clicks of the mouse away. It’s easy to represent myself however I choose; all I need is the right anonymous avatar and handle.

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Welcome!

Thank you for checking out my new blog, Fly Like a Crow.

First, what’s up with the name?

Check out the ‘About’ page at the top for more info on that. And take a moment to explore the other pages as well. They’re short and sweet, I promise.

So what is this blog about?

Beyond what you read on the about page, it will be a place to write and blog on a myriad of topics. Primarily, I’ll be focusing on Buddhism, and my family/being a father. I actually see these two things as being parallel lines on the same track of “me”. They are both an evolving practice where I work towards perfection. Every day brings a new challenge, struggle, and usually some success.

I might just try my hand at some more poetry here. It’s something I’ve only dabbled in before, and has been a long time since I’ve really written any.

I’m going to toss in some politics from time to time. Nothing hateful, no right vs. left narratives. There are plenty of those to go around.

I’ll continue to review books here, whether they get sent to me by authors or publishers, or ones that I just happen to purchase myself.

And there’s a slight possibility that I might get philosophical from time to time. I also might throw in some sutra study that I’ve been working on.

And sometimes, I’ll just throw up a picture or two. I’m also going to try to include a picture with more of my posts in general, and I’m going to try to only use ones that I’ve taken.

Whatever happens, it will flow naturally. Like my previous blogging endeavours, I have no ambitions to blog daily. Once, twice a week is about all I can muster given work and family responsibilities (and enjoying time with my family).

So, take a look around. You’ll notice all of my old posts from the past, minus a few I wasn’t proud of at all. Feel free to subscribe via RSS or email (head to the footer) and feel free to add this blog to your blog roll if you feel so inclined. Thank you for stopping by.

Cheers.

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Still LOST?

Yup, I’m a LOST-a-holic, or at least I was until this past Sunday’s (Monday on the web for me) series finale. If you’re looking for Buddhist themes running throughout LOST check out Kyle’s blog  or the Worst Horse for a good round-up (I won’t get into those too much here, as PLENTY of people have already done that). What I want to dive into is the finale itself. First of all, yes, I liked it. I know there are many out there that didn’t, and there are many out there that simply didn’t understand it. So let’s dive in.

Almost goes without saying, but yes, SPOILER ALERT!

So we finally find out……not much really. And that’s okay with me. I liked that we didn’t find out the origin of the island, or a lot of the more mystical elements of the series. One of the most engaging aspects of the series was that sense of being kept in the dark, and the mystery that shrouded the island and characters. To take that away on the last episode would have done a disservice to the narrative that the writers created in the first place. It also would have been another depressing chapter in the history of spoon-fed tv series/movie shows that Americans seem so fond of.

But I think that the fixation upon “what is the island?” “what’s up with Walt?” “why didn’t Ben go into the church?” and other such questions that led viewers to disappointment detract from the real appeal/theme of LOST, and the significance of their final outcome.

Yes, the supernatural and spooky elements of LOST (along with those ridiculous cliff hangers) certainly did draw in and sustain many of the viewers, however, that wasn’t the real point of LOST, was it? LOST was never about the island, the island was merely the stage where the real story could unfold and the characters could reveal themselves in their true light. Every episode was filled with their stories, and very little in the way of the supernatural really every happened (which is what gave birth to many people’s love/hate relationship with the show). The show was about the process of human transformation. Just look at the Sawyer character. He went from low-life con-artist to hero and good guy (with many flip-flops along the way). Or Jack’s stubborn “there is no purpose” nature in the beginning to full-fledged faith-based believer. This is where the real power of the show was.

So about the finale. Yes, everything that happened, happened. And the “flash sideways” world that was created was a type of purgatory. And yes, it all did make sense! Some have argued that the writers wrote themselves into a corner, and were “unable” to explain the greater mysteries of the island. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There was plenty of opportunity to explain away the mysteries of the island, the writers simply chose not to (though I have read that due to time constraints and other real-world circumstances, some of the predicted story lines didn’t end up the way originally intended). But that’s okay; the show doesn’t suddenly lose its appeal because the writers live in the real world. It seems nobody wants a mystery anymore, we’d rather just have someone tell us the answers.

So what was it all about? What did it all mean? I’ve seen plenty of explanations out there, and even more complaints. Here’s my take (and what I’ve been saying LOST is really about for a couple of years now):

It’s all about the connections we make on our journey as a human. The characters couldn’t escape them even if they tried. Example: Sawyer goes to Australia to find the man who conned his mother and caused his parents to die (who turns out to be Locke’s con man father) and meets up with Jack’s dad in a bar who is there to see his daughter Claire who ends up on the plane to LAX with everyone else. There are about 20 more of these 7 degrees of separation, but you get the point. Everyone on the island was connected in some way before they got on the plane and those connections are what drove their personal transformations while on the island. This theme was the basis for the flash-sideways story line, as it took a connection to one another in order for each person in purgatory to “awaken”, thereby allowing them to move on. 

There was also the whole “let go” theme that I found interesting as well (there are many, many others, take your pick); in that everyone needed to let go of something in order to move on with their lives. This was true for their lives on the island, as well as for many of them in the flash-sideways universe/purgatory/dmv line. There are lots more to discuss, as LOST was a very complex show. And I’d love to sit here and talk about all the cool themes and intriguing story lines (Jack’s son in purgatory being a manifestation of his own wants/desires regarding his relationship with his own father) but that would take forever.

But if the writers had closed every story line, and gave us all the answers, there’d be nothing to discuss, would there? This show will keep us talking for a while, and I’m sure to revisit it a few times over my lifetime.

In the end, it all seemed to come down to one of the lines that made the show famous from Season 1: “if we can’t live together—we’re gonna die alone”.

p.s. – I will say that the death of Locke/smoke monster was anti-climatic, but that was the only thing I found disappointing about the finale.

 

Cheers.

Thank you Hunter for pointing me to this TED talk by JJ Abrams which explains why he left the mystery box closed on this one.

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And more snow related suffering…….

“In some areas homes have been without power since last November, facing record snowfalls and the collapsing infrastructure of America’s Midwestern water and power lines and disaster response systems.

“Power outages began with a storm in December knocking down around 5,000 power poles, and has been accelerated by an ice storm Jan. 22 knocking down another 3,000 power lines on the reservation.

“Frustration at the insufficient response of the Red Cross and governor’s office is mounting,” she added. “All of this while people sit without power, water and face food shortage.”

There is more snow-related devastation to report on, this time right here in the mid-west. Yet almost no one has heard about it. I can see why there was so little press about the dzud in Mongolia, but this is happening right here in our own backyard. I don’t want to pull the race card, but being a card-carrying member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, I fell like I have to call a spade a spade.

The news here in America is tiered according to race. When white children disappear, it makes the cover of Newsweek. When black children die in inner-cities, it barely makes the 6 o’clock news. And when thousands of Native Americans are left without power (heat), food and water, no one speaks at all. Scott Peterson got how much news coverage? How many unsolved murders were there that year?

Yes, I’m white. But that doesn’t mean that I want my news and information white-washed for me. Native Americans have suffered more than any other racial/ethnic group in the history of this continent, and they continue to be marginalized. I’m not one of those people who gets pissed off because there’s an NHL team in Chicago called “The Blackhawks”. But was does irk me is how my ancestor’s entire history, culture, and contribution to the world we live in today has been white-washed and almost completely written out of the history books. I’m also not one of those people who is going to get pissed off because you supported people in Haiti when they were in need. Compassion is compassion, and turning charity into a polarizing, fodder-for-more-partisianship mechanism is reckless and misguided. I’m all for helping out our fellow humans when we are in need, regarless of geography. But I will ask that you at least acknowledge the need right here in our own backyard.

Our culture is dying, our languages are fading away, our history has been all but lost to the great textbook publishers in Texas. Please don’t let our people suffer the same fate. You can donate to the local Red Cross here.

Cheers.

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Please Help Haiti

International Response Fund

If you are able to give anything at all, please do.

Elephant Journal also has a great list of links, as does John at Zen Dirt as well as Nick at ItsJustLight that all point in the direction of aid and relief for those that are suffering so much now.

Do what you can, even if all you can do is spread the word to help.

Cheers.

Update: The Tzu Chi Foundation is there in Haiti now. I didn’t know this type of Buddhist organization existed. They could use our help!

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My blog in search: a lesson in expectations

When I made the switch to WordPress, one of the features that I found to be really useful was “stats”. It will show you how many visits your blog has per day/week/month, incoming links, what links visitors clicked on once they were at your blog, and so on. One of the stats that WordPress tracks that I have found particularly humourous and intriguing is the terms that people used in search to find your blog. I would expect that 95% of my readers are either Buddhist or exploring Buddhism, and the rest just enjoy what I have to say or want my homebrew recipes. Turns out this isn’t the case. Apparently a lot of people find my blog while searching for topics related to facial hair.

I thought I would share with you some of the terms people were searching for and ended up coming to my blog. The number next to the term is the number of times that specific item was used in search, and then people clicked on my blog.

gohonzon 13
dharma brewing 4
fifth precept 3
prison riot in america 2
guys with theirs unibrows shaved off (hu?) 2
zen butsudan 2
ango shave head 2
treeleaf zendo 2
butsudan gohonzon 2
punishment by lashing 2
kiss sonic boom 2
ugly sideburns (i didn’t think they were that bad) 2
sing sing prison riots 2
foto´s van gohonzon op internet 2
pro life protester 2
mullet 2
zen home butsudan 1
the fifth precept of b 1
gohonzon butsudan 1
eco goths (?) 1
link:http://blackskimmer.blogspot.com 1
“mr london street” bloggers cafe 1
super troopers smoke the whole bag 1
coltin 1948 1
cheese cloth pumpkin brew 1
brewing blog buddhist 1
cheesecloth in fermenter 1
super troopers mustaches 1
is eating glass dangerous (i didn’t make that up. someone actually searched to see if eating glass was dangerous, and then read my blog. I assume their next search was “nearest hospital”) 1
how to get gohonzon at home 1
dharma – finding comfort 1
butsudan 1
attachment dharma 1
dharma beer homebrew 1
where to put a gohonzon in the home 1
butsudan per gohonzon 1
“brandon boyd” 1
human response for death 1
bad buddha brewing 1
planet climatic changes 1
brazil prison riot 1
mullets motorcycles moustaches 1
im the cat that shits outside the box (that’s my personal favorite) 1
mustaches for prospect cancer 1
home brewing disasters 1
what physical changes must occur to make 1
my gohonzon 1
bald head and moustaches 1
human perspective 1
zen, gohonzon 1

 

Hope you enjoyed. Cheers.

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Best Xmas light show ever

Found this video, and thought I would share. Cheers.

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Like Father Like………..Father?

So it’s a little more than halfway through my mustache growing adventure. My wife Alex pointed out the other day that I’m starting to look like my dad. I’ve always more closely resembled my Mother’s side of the family, but now that I have the Dad-stache, I’m starting to see the patriarchal resemblance.

Halfway through Movember, and I've got half-a-'stache

Consequently this has all stirred up a bunch of weird feelings about fatherhood. I’m monitoring myself more closely with my son now. Am I acting like my dad did? Am I going to be the same type of parent that he was/is? Am I instilling the same values as he did? Do I still hold those same values? Am I just a product of my father’s influence?

Ugh. All this because of a silly mustache. Cheers.

There is still time to donate to our cause. For all the info check here. To donate to our cause, head here.

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Dig it

We all have something that digs at us,
At least we dig each other
So when weakness turns my ego up
I know you’ll count on the me from yesterday

If I turn into another
Dig me up from under what is covering
The better part of me

I didn’t at first pay much attention to these lyrics by Incubus, and then just a couple of lines jumped out at me the other day. “So when weakness turns my ego up, I know you’ll count on the me from yesterday“. What a lesson in impermanence. Sometimes we do seem to change from day-to-day (because we do). I’m not the same person now that I was before I started writing this post. It has already changed my perspective, my experiences, even my body. We may change in the eyes of others from one meeting to the next, but we hardly notice these subtle changes in ourselves.

If I have a bad day, someone might wonder “what happened to the Adam that I know?” And their point is actually more valid than they realize. What did happen to that aspect of me that seems so lost now? “If I turn into another, Dig me up from under what is covering, The better part of me” This is what the quest of Buddhism is all about. We won’t find our Buddha nature outside ourselves. It’s right there inside, covered up with attachments, delusions, and whatever else Samsara happens to throw our way.

Of course, I don’t think Brandon Boyd was singing about his Buddha nature, but he does subtly touch on one point I feel is important; it’s that he’s asking for help. He needs for that person that he cares about to help him uncover his better self. I think it would be very hard to simply go it alone in Buddhism. I’m not knocking people who practice at home or anything. What I’m talking about is the help we receive from our sanghas (online or in person or whatever). It’s in our blog discussions, in our in-person meetings that we get help from others in getting through to our Buddha nature. We might not even notice it at the time; but when we discuss the dharma, even in passing, we are helping each other on our path to enlightenment. So keep the posts and the comments coming bloggers. Keep broadcasting podcasters. Keep teaching the dharma venerable masters. Keep discussing the sutras over teas and biscuits sanghas. It’s helping us all dig at the better part of us. Cheers.

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Mullets, Mustaches…….. and Buddhism?

mullet

The versatility of the Mullet is greatly underestimated.......

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve shaved off every hair on my head besides my unibrow, all in the name of fighting cancer. On the night before Halloween I decided to shave a mullet into my hair, give my sideburns a touch of white trash, and generally rock out the trailer park look (my mom lived in a trailer park, so it wasn’t too hard). It was fun, got a lot of double-takes, and a lot of laughs which is what I was going for. Lots of homebrews, mead and smoked salmon were devoured, and we all had a great time. My brother and sister-in-law have a Fall Harvest party every year for all of us to indulge our pagan selves, and this year was no disappointment. Then on Halloween we took the little one out and he scored Mom and Dad plenty of candy (he’s only 10 months old) and had a ton of fun.

Now, however, I’m left with a bald head and face. I’ve only ever shaved off my goatee at most 10 times since I was 15. My goatee is a part of me. It’s my Burt Reynold’s ‘stache, it’s my gap in Madonna’s teeth. So the prospect of not having it for a month actually has been fairly jarring. I’m basically going to be completely uncomfortable with my face for a whole month. I’m going to be self-conscious of the ugly, patchy ‘stache that will eventually grow in about week 3 or so. I’m going to keep feeling my chin for my goat and realize there is nothing there anymore. This is going to be friggin weird.

Suddenly, this “grow a ‘stache for cancer” thing has turned into a month-long lesson in ego, in self, in attachment, and impermanence. And it seemed like such a silly little thing that shouldn’t matter at all. But I suppose this is my new perspective, my new lens. Things that were once simple have become much more complex, all so that I can see how simple (yet profound) they really are. Cheers.

S7303017

I'm bringin' back the bald.......

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A 'stache with a cause

I have decided to join a global movement that is bringing much needed attention to cancers that affect men.  I’m doing this by growing a Moustache this Movember, the month formerly known as November.  My commitment is to grow a moustache all November to change the face of men’s health and I want you to join me. 

The funds we raise during our Moustache journey go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LIVESTRONG).

What many people don’t know is that 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and that testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 18-35.  Facts like these have convinced me I should get involved. 

To join my Movember team called The Cop Mops go to http://us.movember.com/register/25607.

Once registered you’ll be sent all the information needed to get donations and get growing as part of my Movember team.

Learn more about Movember by watching the Intro Video at http://us.movember.com

Try and get as many of your friends, family, and co-workers to join our team if you decide to join up. Seriously, this will be a lot of fun, it’s really easy to raise money for this, and you will have to put forth very little effort. No marathons, no walks around a lake, no going door-to-door. You just have to grow a ‘stache and get the word out. Donations can all be submitted online.

 Together we can change the face of men’s health.

 No pressure though. If this isn’t your thing, I totally understand.

More information to come soon. Cheers.

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Blog Action Day – Climate Change

So Blogger has this “Blog Action Day” thing going on, where they want as many bloggers as possible to blog on the same day about the same topic – the climate crisis. So, here we go…….

 The Science behind climate change is sound. We are currently screwing up the planet. If you doubt this, read some Scientific articles (the peer reviewed really boring stuff, not just someone’s commentary) and make your own decision based on the evidence. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on.

 When making beer, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. Let’s start with the recipe. The Amber Ale I just bottled was a pretty straight forward recipe. But you have to know how the different ingredients are going to interact when formulating the recipe, or you’ll end up with a palate full of mess. Too complex, and all the flavors will be muddled and unappealing. Too simple, and you’ll end up with a flat beer that isn’t worth it’s weight in mud. So my grain bill was a little on the complex side, but the flavors mixed well, and none of the grains were overwhelming. They provided just the right flavor along with the maltiness of the extract to achieve a flavorfull and balanced mouth feel and flavor. When adding the hops, I had to be careful not to add to much at the beginning, or the bitterness would have overpowered the fruity and malty flavors. Too little, and it would have been flat, malty, and unbalanced.

 Next, there are a number of precautions one must take. If you let the grains get too hot, you’ll have astringent beer. If you don’t sanitize your equipment properly, you could contaminate your beer and you’ll end up with 5 gallons of crap. Same thing if you slosh the fermenting wort around after the yeast is pitched. And if you fill your bottles too low or too high, the carbonation will be off, which could also ruin your beer. “Adam – this was supposed to be about the climate crisis, not beer.” – I’m getting to it.

 So, what’s the common theme here? Balance. In every step of the process, care must be taken to maintain a proper level of balance. Too much or too little of any one thing or process will ruin the entire batch. It happens to all of us from time to time. Which is why mindfulness is so important when going through the brewing process. When one can achieve the proper state of mind, one can give full attention to the task at hand and brew quality beer.

 The same focus needs to be directed toward the climate crisis. You’ll see a lot of the global warming skeptics talk about how water vapor is the leading cause of global warming, and that man isn’t the culprit. But they fail to realize that it is through our actions that we have raised the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, which leads to an increase in water vapor, which increases the temperature, which leads to more water vapor…… get the picture? We’ve unbalanced the delicate dance that the earth’s climate has been waltzing for thousands of years.

 And it’s not just our “carbon emissions” either. It’s our deforestation. It’s our dumping millions of gallons of chemicals into our lakes and oceans from runoff and sewage. Here in the Puget Sound, a few days after Thanksgiving there is noticeable amounts of vanilla and other spices in the water due to all the pumpkin pie and other holiday foods that are produced. So yes, what you eat and clean your home with does have an effect on the environment.

 In Buddhism, we learn that we are all interconnected. It’s a core teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha. And not just the “we are the world” type of connected. When you pour Drano down the sink and flush it into the ocean, you’re flushing it into yourself. You’re flushing it into your grandmother, your dog, your unborn child. When you drive the 5 blocks to the Post Office in your Hummer rather than walk, you’re polluting your own air, your family’s air, the air in Yellowstone. Your actions have far-reaching effects. Knowing this, will you change your mind about the way you act in this world?

 This is why I believe the teachings of the Buddha are so vitally important to humanity. When we are able to fully realize our interconnectedness, will we continue to devour this planet, realizing that we are really devouring ourselves? How could we?

 I encourage you to change your way of thinking. I encourage you to look at how unbalanced your actions are. I’m trying to do the same, succeeding and failing every day. Think about the products you buy. How were they sourced? What ingredients/components were used? What will you do with it when you are finished with it? Do you really need a GMC Yukon, or could you get along just fine with a more efficient Prius or Suburu or smaller SUV? Why not use a CFL bulb, or reuseable grocery bag? Could your company do more confrencing on the web rather than fly people across the country?

 The time for talk is over. Action is the only solution to the problems we’ve created. There are a million resources out there for living a “greener” life. Just be wary of the ones that are only trying to cash in on your good intentions. If Al Gore really cared about more than just making a buck, he’d have covered his costs on the movie and invested in wind power with the rest of the cash. And he’d have found alternative packaging for it. While the message was right, the delivery was simply terrible. But I digress.

 This was the Home Brew Dharma take on the Climate Crisis/environmental issues. I’m sure I’ll blog more about it, as it is a very important topic, especially as it deals with interconnectedness. But that’s my contribution to the Blog Action Day, and I hope I at least made you pause to consider your actions and intentions. Cheers.

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Connected to Nothing. On the Human Condition: Part 3

Remember getting a letter in the mail? An actual, honest-to-god hand written letter? I can remember getting letters from my cousins who lived in Virginia (I was a youth in Michigan at the time). It was this really exciting feeling, like Christmas was delivered to my mailbox. I’d open the letter, and pour over every word and sentence three or four times, just to make sure I wouldn’t forget anything. And I’d have that same feeling when writing back to my cousin about whatever it was that I felt he needed to know. Strangely, I don’t feel quite the same way when I open my email.

 For human interaction, it’s all about communication. Something like 80% or more of our method of communication is non-verbal. A subtle raise of the eyebrow, a shift in one’s step, a blushed cheek. We pick up on these things consciously as well as unconsciously. It’s the twinkle in a loved one’s eye when you’ve knocked them head over heels. It’s what makes our human interactions so…. human.

 We use thousands of words a day to express how we feel, let others know what we’re thinking, ask directions, get help, create emotional bonds. Words move us, hurt us, connect us, uplift us and confuse us.

 Social interaction is hard wired into our beings. We are social mammals, and that is something we simply can’t escape. What Darwinian purpose does it serve? Is it to provide family structures in which to procreate and raise healthy, intelligent youth? Is it to protect the pack? Simple betterment of society? Maybe it’s sole purpose is to remind us that we are human, that we are all humans bouncing around this blue ball in the solar system.

 For our most hardened, violent criminals, what do we do with them? We lock them away from society. That is their punishment. It’s not so much that they are in jail, as much as it is that they don’t get to belong to society anymore. And for the worst of the worst? Solitary confinement. That’s the ultimate punishment. To be locked away even from the makeshift Lord of the Flies society of prison. No one to talk to for days, weeks, months at a time. This is by far the worst punishment one could endure in a civil society. Personally, I find it to be much, much worse than capital punishment. Death is no punishment. There is nothing in death.

  So okay, we know that to remain connected to humanity, we use language and communication and all other kinds of interaction. It’s vitally important to establishing and maintaining any sort of society, even in the animal kingdoms. Yadda yadda yadda…..where am I going with all of this?

 Well, I’m certainly not alone in saying that we’ve become disconnected as a society. I’m not the first, and I’m not the last. But it’s not just that we’re becoming disconnected as a society. We’re becoming disconnected from humanity, and what it means to be a human.

 You can see this standing in line at Starbucks, the way people don’t want to look at each other, the way they all see each other as competition for who gets their coffee first. You can see it in futbol matches, when friendly competition turns into a soccer hooligan Guinness/rage-fueled street riot. You can see it at the recent town hall meetings with demonstrators drawing comparisons between Obama and Hitler. It’s become less about being a part of society connected to other people, and more about “I’ll do what I want because I feel like it”.

 But no where is the disconnect more apparent than right here on the interwebs. We create avatars and handles and nicknames for ourselves in an attempt to hide behind anonymity. We’d rather be catlover67453 than Deb or John. It’s much easier to disregard civility when you’re no longer you, and you aren’t communicating with an actual human. We use vulgarity, “SHOUT” at each other, demean others, and generally act like a pack of starving wolves.

 I try not to use extreme examples, as I think they tend to do more harm than good, and lead to people focusing on an abstract example rather than the point at hand. But in this case, I’ll break my code. When slavery was everyday practice here in America, it was easily justified because Blacks were viewed as less than human. Hitler and the Nazis convinced scores of people that the Jews and Gypsies and Homosexuals and all those killed during the Holocaust were somehow less than human. We’ve started to do it now to the illegal immigrants coming from Latin America. It’s an extremely hard thing for a normal, well adjusted person to go off and kill a fellow human being. It goes against our nature. But when made to believe that the person we’re killing is somehow not human, or less than human, it’s suddenly not so difficult.

 Obviously, no one is killing each other over the Internet. But the dehumanization is there. When we’re talking to other words on a page with a funny icon of a monkey smelling his poo, it’s easy to tell that icon to go fuck itself. It’s easy to tell it that it’s whole belief system is stupid and childish. It’s easy to it that it’s lifestyle is an abomination. There’s no reason to be civil with a web page.

There’s a reason people don’t talk like this in the grocery store. Part of it is out of respect for others. Some are more shy in public. But mostly it’s due to the connection. When we’re all in a grocery store, even if we’re not talking to each other, we can feel that connection to each other. It’s a part of us. You can’t deny it. You might judge the person next to you at the meat counter, but you still feel that connection to them. You wouldn’t call them an asshole if they happened to make a comment on the health care system that you didn’t agree with. But it’s so easy to when it’s done in an Internet forum or on a comment section on a blog post. And it’s because of the disconnect.

 So why is that we treat others with such disrespect once we’ve disconnected? I mean, I get why we treat each other so well when we do feel that interconnectedness. But why act so irrational otherwise? Maybe it’s because that when we disconnect from society, what we’re really doing is detaching ourselves from our own humanity. And when that humanity is lost, our animal nature is all that is left. Or maybe it’s an empty version of ourselves. Maybe it’s holdover primal hunter mentality from our early selves. No round edges, no soft gentle embraces, no loving kindness. Something else takes over, and tells us that it’s okay to treat others like garbage, like prey, like something that isn’t human.

 Don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet. I blog, I use Facebook, Failblog, Netflix, and all kinds of other wonderful (and time wasting) web pages. I’ve learned so much using it. There are millions and millions of resources here to utilize. Information is being shared in a way never before seen. It’s creating a global community. But we have to ask ourselves what type of community we want to create. Is it going to be one in which we continue to devalue each other and each other’s thoughts/feelings? Will it be one in which we continue to hide behind anonymity, lashing out at anyone with an opinion different than our own? Will it be one in which we continue to disconnect from our humanity? Or will we foster an environment that embraces and makes an effort to connect humans in a more positive way? I certainly hope the latter. It’s really up to us, right now. I challenge anyone with an anonymous handle out there to start using their real name. Put up a picture of yourself. Start addressing people by name. Start connecting to the other people out there, rather than the other avatars.

So back to my first point, about the handwritten letter. Why was it that the letter was something to cherish, something so special while my email isn’t? I think part of it was the effort that went into writing the letter. And someone wrote the letter to me, a human. My cousin knew that I would open the letter by hand, sit there and read it line for line. I suppose it’s one of those things I can’t quite put my finger on, but you know what I mean. There’s something special about good old fashion human interaction. Cheers.

 Oh, and because I love solutions to problems, here’s something from Cracked.com

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Motorcycles, Beer, and Change

The last batch of beer that I bottled didn’t turn out so well. It was an American Brown Ale (I currently have a batch of Amber waiting in the fermenter, and a batch of Pumpkin Ale I’ll be brewing next week). And I screwed it up. I was off daydreaming about hops and Barley Wines and wasn’t being very mindful of the mash. I let the grains get way to hot, and some tannins were extracted (in beer, tannins = bad usually). So I ended up with some quite astringent beer. Besides that, the flavor was alright, but it was probably the worst batch I’ve ever made.

 What pissed me off about it all initially was the fact that I used the same system that I did before. I approached it in a different manner (which had a slight astringent problem, but nothing this bad) and got the same damn results. I’m not going to get into details about how my brewing method, as that would be even more boring than the rest of this post. Basically, even though my intention was to make a better ale by switching a few things up, I still fell into the same pattern as before and ended up with shit beer.

I’m fond of quoting Robert Pirsig. He’s the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s easily the most overlooked work of philosophical literature of the last 50 years*. I’m currently obsessed (yup, an attachment) with Zen and the Art, and the whole way he approaches thought in it. After I was done beating myself up over my lousy batch of ale, something he said came to mind.

 “But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government , but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”

 I could easily write 20 or more pages on just this paragraph alone. I’ll probably reference it numerous times throughout this blog. But what I want to talk about now is approaching change. There certainly has been a lot of talk about “change” lately in the news, ever since President Obama took office. But how much change can we expect from him, and the political party that he represents? I say none. Nothing real. No real solutions to our problems. The root cause of our problems will not be addressed. This time we’ll use a blue band-aid, and in a few more years, it’ll be a red one. But band-aids to little to address the real cause of the affliction.

 We hear all the time about how “if it were a free-market system, things would be different.” Well, sorry. News flash: THIS IS a free market system. It is a free market system that led us to our present state. It certainly wasn’t communism, or totalitarianism, or anarchy. It was a free market system. It is this system that led to the controlling lobbyists. It is this system that led to a for-profit health care system. It is this system that led to Enron, the housing market crash, immigration problems, the wealth gap, the rampant depletion of natural resources, and just about anything else you can think of. So to make changes within the system, and expect another outcome is ridiculous. Eventually, it will all get fucked up, one way or another. A free market system must create disparity to survive, for if everyone were equal, there would be no motivation to progress anything.

 If we can’t make changes within the system to progress society, what then? According to Pirsig, we must change the whole thought process and rationality that created the system in the first place. We must not only throw out the present system, but throw away the rationality that produced it in the first place. Why? Obviously, that rationality was flawed. We could expect no less than yet another flawed system if keep the same patterns of thought in place. Our American Revolution simply handed over the crown to the American Government, and the American Banking interests. Meet the new boss……

 Here’s an example of a time when bucking the system worked, and proved beneficial to humanity at large. 2500 years ago in India, the prevailing rationality was that in order to achieve enlightenment, and end your cycle of rebirth, an aesthetic lifestyle was pretty much your only option. That only through extreme, disciplined aestheticism would you ever be able to achieve the clarity necessary to rid yourself of the illusion of self. Siddhartha Gautama tried this for many years. He tried everything the other aesthetics taught him, and he still did not reach his goal. So rather than find other methods within that system, he threw out that whole system, and figured out that the “middle way” was the true path to enlightenment. It was this break through that allowed him to realize his goal, and it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t change his rationality and approach.

A lot of bitching takes place on the Interwebs about “changing” a lot of the world’s problems. It is hopelessly non-constructive and self-defeating. Not only do people not propose any real, actionable solutions, they’re pissing in the wind when they do manage to think of something constructive to say (and not only that, they don’t get off their asses to do anything about it). We can’t hope to rid the world of poverty in our current free-market based societies. It ain’t gonna happen. It is built into the system.

 Many people have found the Zeitgeist movie online. Not as many have seen the second movie, or been to the Zeitgeist Movement website. Now, you and I may not agree with what they are proposing. That isn’t the point here. The point is that they are proposing a completely different system, (a solution!), a completely different rationality and unheard of approach; and they are being ridiculed for it. The main reason? People’s attachment to the status quo. Humanity has been so entrenched in this “me me me gimme gimme gimme money is the only motivator” system and way of thought for so long, that we can’t even comprehend how a different system would even be possible. But if we want real, actionable, sustainable change, we must embrace the total destruction of our present way of thought. It is imperative that we begin looking at society in a different manner altogether. We must throw out the Lockes and the Kants and the Platos and the Smiths, and start fresh. We need a new philosophy. I’m not saying that the Zeitgeist people have all the answers, but they are heading in the right direction. (on a side note, the second movie is much better than the first, as it deals less in conspiracies, and more in solutions).

If you really want a better batch of beer, you can’t just change up your recipe. You have to change your entire brewing method, and even your thought before you develop your brewing method. For this last batch, I did just that. Hopefully, it will be much more enjoyable, and I’ll be able to proudly share it with family and friends. Cheers.

 

*A comment exchange that took place when this post was first published and I felt was relevant to post here:

Anonymous said…

“…most overlooked work of philosophical literature of the last 50 years”? That strikes me as telling people you just discovered they sell dog food in cans!

This book has sold 5 million copies in nearly 30 different languages. There are serious philosophical societies that have formed to focus solely on Pirsig’s ideas. He is an international celebrity in the world of philosophy. Most university philosophy departments recognize his work, and most read his books.

How is that “overlooked”?

September 24, 2009 10:18 PM

Adam said…Yes, certainly a poor choice of words, as that really didn’t convey what i meant. The book was a huge success; it says so right on the cover and obviously I can read.

I wrote this post over a few different days, and left out something that i was about to touch on. While it may be the greatest thing since sliced bread for the philosophy folks out there, it certainly hasn’t yet found it’s way into the real, actionable world, and i think it really needs to. This is what I started to talk about when I said overlooked. The more i think about it, the more i believe this is another post altogether.

Thanks for pointing that out anonymous commenter. I see the confusion that could and has caused.

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An invalid response to life and death. On The Human Condition: part 2

This is part 2 of a series, and I think it would be best to read the first post first, or else you might have no idea what I’m talking about. Also, sorry if this one jumps around a bit.

 Religion. There, I said it. You better man your battle stations, put your earplugs in, your blinders on, and close your mind at once; because I just mentioned religion on the interwebs. Of course if you read the first post, you’d know that I’m going to be exploring religion from the human perspective, not a Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Pagan, Pantheist, Wiccan, Hindu or any other perspective.

So, from the human standpoint, why religion? Why did we begin turning to religion in the first place? Some will tell you that it was a way to assign meaning to the seasons, lightning, floods, earthquakes, the moon; to explain all of the natural phenomenon that early man took notice of. I don’t believe this to be valid. As I see it, religion was based out of a response to living as a human. To life and death on this planet. This is where the seed of religion was planted and cultivated. 

So what? Big deal, right? No, not so much. If religion is based out of a response to living life as a human, and experiencing death as a human, we must evaluate our present belief systems on that criteria first and foremost. In essence, is your religion (or lack thereof) a valid response to living life as a human? Does it fit with everything we now know about life on this planet?

 A little background on me. Once upon a time, I was a Lutheran. Good church, nice people, wonderful pastor. A very laid back congregation. None of the fire and brimstone fear mongering. I went to Sunday Bible School and such as a youth. I even sang in the youth choir. I went through all the motions, did my best to believe. But even from a young age I remember something nagging at me about it all. For a brief time, I went to a Baptist church because my ex-stepmother pretty much forced us to. This was the fire and brimstone, brainwash ’em when they’re young brand of Christianity. I hated it. I also hated how they made me feel as an outsider. Thankfully, that didn’t last too long. We went back to my former church, and things were better. Mind you, we only went maybe twice a month or so. Religion wasn’t a huge thing in my family. 

Well, somewhere around 13-16 or so (can’t remember, too many raging hormones) I really started to take a look at the whole God thing. It started making less and less sense to me. In fact, it started to become quite ridiculous. The creation story, the flood story, angels, devils, the plagues. I looked at the myths of ancient Greece and Egypt, looked at the Bible, and then it hit me. I had been punk’d. It was all a sham. It was a bunch of silly nonsense that people spoon fed me and forced me to believe in. So, I stopped going. I suppose this was my atheist/agnostic period.

 Later, I fell in love with a beautiful and wonderful debil worshipping (at least that’s what the fundies would say) pagan/Buddhist spiritual woman and it really all started to go down hill 😉 yadda yadda yadda fast forward to today. Today, I consider myself a non-traditional pantheist and umm… dare I actually say it…. a Buddhist. I suppose that’s something I’ll have to get used to. Weird.

 So back to the response. Why do I feel that Christianity is no longer a valid response to life as a human? Well, part of it has to do with Science. Science provides conclusions based on evidence. Science is not static. It admits when it is wrong, and changes in conclusions happen when new evidence is presented. Science has explained our evolution into homo sapiens. Science has explained what makes the stars glow, the planets go ’round, the birds sing and the floods rise. The more we learn about this emergent universe, the fewer places there are for God to hide. When we start to realize this, we can begin to realize that it isn’t any god that controls our lives and deaths, and in fact we have been in control the whole time. And if we are in control of our lives and our deaths, what use do we have for God? 

If we seek God out of comfort, what does that say about our relationship with each other? Have we become that distant, that separated from our human nature that we can’t find comfort in each other? Again, God is not needed, nor warranted in this situation. We should be looking toward each other for comfort, for help. We should find solace in our interconnectedness, but we have forgotten that we are connected at all. We should be able to ask our neighbor to borrow a wrench, but we don’t. And when we are asked by that neighbor for a favor, we tend not to trust him. The reasons for this are mainly fear based, and I feel that’s another post altogether.

 There is of course, death and the great unknown. We all like to believe that we live on after death. But that’s all that it is, a belief. A wish in the wind. Because everything we know about organic matter says that we cease to be when brain function stops. Now, I’d like to believe that some part of me lives on after this point, that what I am right now is just a brief splash in the eternal river that is me, that there is no end to the flow, and that I’ll continue on in another direction. But who knows? And what good does it do to speculate? Again, does it matter to how you live your life right now? 

So we construct a God that gives us a concrete choice of heaven or hell. Believe or don’t believe. Weird. So, in order to get an eternal afterlife of bliss, all I have to do is have blind faith in something? Sweet! Sign me up! ….. Actually, I gave up fairy tales a long time ago. The truth is there is no heaven or hell. Heaven and hell are merely a reward and punishment system set up to further a belief system that is no longer valid in this emergent universe. My only guess as to why it keeps on perpetuating itself in the face of a mountain of evidence that contradicts it’s history and origins and existence is that comfort example I talked about earlier. 

It’s comforting to know that those around you believe the same as you. People of like mind tend to flock together. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with with this. Some people like mint chocolate chip ice cream, and some don’t. No biggie. But what’s different about a flock of Christians is that when confronted with the fact that their God is no where to be found in this Universe, they have their group and their group mentality to support them. No one wants to be wrong. The ego can’t handle being wrong. The ego has set up a specific reality for you, and anything that shakes that reality off it’s hinges could mean the death of the ego. So it finds solace in being surrounded by those that believe as you do. Call it mob syndrome, mass hysteria or whatever. When there is a mob of people together, they (in their minds) can do no wrong. And if the mob is right, the ego can be stroked into complicity.

 There is also that whole “fear of the unknown” thing as well. Though I think that ties in more nicely with the inability of most to admit that they are wrong, or that they don’t know. Curiosity didn’t just kill the cat. Curiosity unchecked has killed plenty of humans as well. We have this need, this hunger to know everything. We are terrible at keeping secrets, and even worse at letting others keep theirs. We must know everything, and we must know it now! I’m not sure why it is that we can’t leave things as simply “I don’t know”. As far as the origins of the Universe are concerned, I’m happy saying “I don’t know”. As far as what happens in the afterlife, I’m also happy saying “I don’t know”. Because in the end, all of that has nothing to do with what happens in the now.

  If you were given absolute proof that Thor or Allah or Zeus or any of the other 2500+ gods out there existed, how would it change your life? How would your day change? Would you order a different $5 foot long for lunch today? Would you love your spouse more or less? Would you quit your job? Would it change how you suffer?

 Of course not. It really wouldn’t change much of anything. It would have little to no impact on day to day life, and have very little impact on this moment. And that is all we have. And that is why I feel that monotheistic religions (especially Christianity- from my experience) are no longer valid responses to life as a human here on this beautiful planet Earth.

 So why do I feel that Buddhism is a valid response? That can be found in the major doctrine of Buddhism; The Four Noble Truths. They are –and this is paraphrased, probably badly– 

1. That as a result of being born, you will encounter suffering.

2. Suffering is caused by our craving/attachments, delusion, and greed.

3. That there is a way to end suffering by ending our attachments, delusion and greed.

4. The way to end suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path (which I’ve already covered)

 There are plenty of translations on the 4 Noble Truths, so I tried to keep them as general as possible. If I really screwed them up, let me know. But don’t nitpick.

 So that’s all I have to say on this for now. Sorry it’s been so long since my last post, but I really wanted to give this one a little time. I hope that when you read this, you’ll re-evaluate your belief system, and really try and discover whether or not it is a valid response to life as a human. Until then, cheers. 

*As always, I fully admit I could be wrong about any of this. The Buddha also advised against divisive speech. I realize this, and if this does cause any suffering, I apologize. I’m not calling your world view invalid. Just that for me, I believe that this particular world view is no longer valid when we take into account present knowledge.

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"Patriot" Day

Well, personally I think it’s ridiculous that we turned the tragedy that was 9/11 into “Patriot” Day. I find it insulting to use the senseless death of innocent thousands to stir up national pride and patriotism.

 I still don’t know what the hell happened that day. Why did tower 7 fall? Did the Bush administration know more than they told the public? Why are one of the hijackers still well and alive? Who knows. And I’m not sure what good it will do to carry around those attachments anymore. I doubt we’ll ever have satisfying answers to the questions that still linger. The 9/11 commission didn’t do their job, and now we’re stuck with all these doubts and suspicions and conspiracies. I suppose now it’s just time to move on. Do what we can about the situation that fostered that violent act now, here in the present.

 There is one prevailing question that still lingers though: “Why”. Why did these people have to die? The answers that the victim’s friends and families have been provided don’t seem to satisfy. I don’t think any answer will. The crime was too extreme, too senseless for conventional reassurances. The thing we have to embrace now is our ability to move on. Not to forget, but to move on, and move forward. Create a world in which this type of violence will not occur. Not through the use of more violence, of more suffering. Instead we must seek out a skillful approach through dialogue and mutual respect. Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but I doubt much suffering will occur as a result of our trying.

 That’s all I have to say on this. I don’t have a personal story to attach to that morning. I was asleep in my dorm room when the planes hit. My roommate tried to wake me, and I just dismissed his rantings as nothing worth dragging me out of bed about. He finally woke me up and the totality of what happened suddenly hit me square in the face. I didn’t know anyone there, I didn’t anxiously await news from a loved one that they were alright.

 This morning I read a post which I feel is one of the most moving and thought provoking pieces on the 9/11 tragedy that I have ever read. Here is the link. Cheers.

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I, Me, and Mine. On The Human Condition: Part 1

Long post alert!!

 

Over there on my profile, you’ll see that “I’m currently exploring life from the human perspective.” You’ll notice that I didn’t say Buddhist, Father, Caucasian, Home Brewer, Brother, Worker Bee or any other label that could be applied to me. That was on purpose. I feel that viewing life through the Human filter is tough enough before adding all of those additional filters, and I want to now examine some things as part of the Human Condition series. I also want to look at the implications and consequences of being born as a human.

 Why is it important to view life as a human first? Well, that’s the one thing we all have in common. We are all one particular species on this planet. Through evolution we have come to be a dominant surface-dwelling mammal. We are tool-users. We have fragile bodies. We use written and oral language as well as body language to communicate with one another. I could go on and on here, but the one thing to really keep in mind is our status as social mammals.

 We’ve always been social creatures. Even in our rough hunter-gatherer days we roamed in communal social structures. We hunted as a pack, ate as a pack, moved as a pack. We looked out for each other, for there was strength in numbers. No one man could take down a Mammoth by himself. He needed the help of others. Women shared in the responsibility of raising the youth. All of this mutual responsibility benefited the entire community and not just the individual, though the impact on the individual is quite obvious. When everyone did their part, things ran smoothly. People ate, were able to defend themselves, and were able to look after others (as well as be looked after themselves).

This worked well for awhile. But then we got tired of the nomadic life and decided to start farming instead. Why chase the food when you can just grow it? Now a few people could work at planting and maintaining the crops. A few could hunt for meat and fish. A few could look after the children. And then there were the specialists. With the ability to live where you worked/ate/hunted, a few specialists in every community were able to start advancing society. Fletchers, metal smiths, carvers, pottery makers and all other sorts of tools and inventions started springing up. And not just your basic arrow or spear. Now we could actually take the time and make it right, and not have them break all the damn time. This made for extremely efficient hunting, which lessened the burden of this task considerably. Farming tools were also springing up, making that process faster and more efficient. And all these tools were used to benefit the community. I’ll make you those arrows, because I know you’ll use them to bring us all back some boar meat. See how that works?

Everyone felt an underlying responsibility to everyone else. This was true communism in action. Ahh!!! He said the “C” word!!! Yes, I did. But I’m talking about communism here, not a Marxist-Lenin state, nor a totalitarian regime. Communism is as simple as I explained above. It’s when people all come together and do their part for the greater good. It’s part of that social mammal wiring we have. It’s natural to care about your fellow man, and be willing to do what it takes to help him out. 

So what the fuck happened? Where did that sense of responsibility to your fellow man wander off to? I have to think that maybe it all started back when we began using an arbitrary currency in place of real goods. For some reason we started to value our personal possessions above the well being of our fellow man. We’d rather have more gold than make sure our neighbors all had a decent dinner that night. This is when the whole “I, me and mine” mentality started taking over. People started fearing the consequences of not having enough currency or possessions, so they felt that they must hold on to them at whatever the cost, and endeavor to gain as much as possible no matter the consequences. This is when “Personal Liberty” started to take a turn for the worse.

 Let’s flash forward to today. We no longer view life through the human filter. We view it through the American, Atheist, White, Male, Pro-Gun, Libertarian filter. Or the Canadian, Asian, Bi-lingual, Buddhist, Conservative, Pro-Life filter. That’s a lot of filters. How does one sort through all of those and still stay connected to the fact that above all they are human? Answer: they don’t. The human experience is no longer of value. It is the libertarian approach of “I, me and mine” that has separated us from that interconnectedness that we used to feed off of. We used to feel a responsibility to take care of our fellow man. Now it is only about personal wealth and individual liberties. There are still plenty of Americans that would not pay a little more in taxes to ensure their fellow human beings were able to be cared for. I find this to be appalling. 

I know that the Buddha said that suffering comes from our attachments to that which is impermanent. I totally agree. But I think there is something else transpiring as well. Our society is out of line with what it should be. Our society used to be a communal one. Our society is now full of people only looking out for themselves, creating huge amounts of disparity. The poor are getting poorer. Our education system is no longer doing an adequate job of educating our youth. We have a health care system that puts health care behind making a profit. It used to be that all of the specialists worked together for the common good. Arrows were made better so that all would be able to eat. Now people make guns and arrows to make a profit. Food is raised for a profit. The monetary system has replaced the human system.

  I believe it is vital that we re-establish our connection to our human nature. The gap between rich and poor will only continue to increase while our current system is in place. The suffering increased throughout the world will only increase as long as we stay disconnected from each other in a society of consumers. We protest outside of abortion clinics about how precious human life is, but those same protesters do nothing for their neighbors, or those that are living in the world and suffering from the disconnect. Are the homeless not worth their efforts? What of the BILLION+ people in the world without access to clean water? Are their lives not precious?

 I believe that the words of the Buddha are able to help everyone, and are vital to not only our happiness, but also to our survival as a species. But I believe that with the current state of our monetary based “I, me, mine” approach to life, it will take more than that to bring harmony into the world. I believe that we need to stop filtering our view of the world through such petty lenses. I believe that a major key to our happiness is to start by coming from the standpoint of a human, and work from there. Cheers.

 

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Stuck Fermentation

 

 I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately. No reason that I can find. Mostly the subject material has escaped me. Then I realized that in itself was a subject worthy of print. I started this blog a few months ago with the hope that it would simply inspire me to write and explore my own mind and understanding. It has done just that. I’m not hoping to get anything on this blog published at any point, ever. This isn’t the subject material that I’d really enjoy writing an entire novel about. I don’t know how I’d make it last that long. But the subject of “writers block” made me curious. Can I approach it the same way I approach any other type of “block” in my life? Why is writer’s block seen as so much more impossible to overcome than say a mechanic’s block, or a architect’s block? We don’t ever hear of bus driver’s block. Is there a potter’s block? More importantly (and pertinent to this blog) is home brewer’s block.

 Sometimes, you’ll finish brewing a batch, pitch the yeast, wake up the next morning and……..nothing. No bubbles in the airlock. You wait another day. No activity. No fermentation. All that time/energy/money you spent looks like it’s circling the toilet right about now. Shitty. You’ve encountered what Pirsig would refer to as a “value trap”. If you don’t approach this trap in the correct way, you just made 5 gallons of terrible drain cleaner. So we need to look at the causes of “stuck fermentation.”

 First, your wort sucks. The environment that the yeast is in is inhospitable. You may have added too many adjuncts or sugar (rice syrup comes to mind here – people use that to make American Light Lagers. piss water. don’t waste your time). So the yeast doesn’t have enough nutrients to survive. You’ll need to feed the yeast if this is the case. Add some sterile wort to the mix. This will give it a kick in the right direction, and dilute all those adjuncts you’ve added.

 In life, this happens frequently. We have a particular goal in mind, but in getting there, we accumulate so much “baggage” and attachments that we end up too weighed down to reach that goal. In writing, we get too many ideas about what the end result should be. Or we get to reading another author and think “I’ll add that in”. Or we get caught up in another task or project. Or we become obsessive compulsive about using the thesaurus for every third word we use. If you want to write, you need to write. Just focus, and do it. No distractions. Set aside a time to write if you need to and stick to it.

This doesn’t apply to writing only. Any goal you have in life, it’s easy to get bogged down by all the non-nutritious crap you’ve added to your life. You want to have a great, prosperous life, filled with joy and ease. But what do you do instead? You leave the TV running. You let your friends drain you emotionally day after day. You eat shit for lunch and dinner (because chances are, you aren’t eating breakfast). Your home is cluttered. Your finances are a mess. In short, you’ve made a bad environment for yourself. It’s at this point where you need to get rid of all the adjuncts in your life that are getting in the way of you living your truth. You can’t even begin to see your truth, let alone live it, if your life has become a cornucopia of poisons. Get rid of them. Have a garage sale. Quit smoking. Take your phone off the hook for awhile. Find some alone time. Take up insight meditation. Unplug and minimize. Then you can start to take a look at who you are, without all the excess flotsam and jetsam that have clogged the river of you.

 Sometimes, your yeast sucks. For whatever reason, it’s become apathetic about making beer in your fermenter. Maybe it’s old. Maybe the temperature wasnt’ right. Maybe it just doesn’t like what you’ve given it to eat. Maybe it was damaged in transportation. There’s a lot of reasons. But what you should do here is feed it. Yeast nutrients work well, and this is an easy fix. This will give your yeast life, and remind it that it’s purpose is to make beer.

 In life it’s difficult; no, damn near impossible to see what the problem with ourselves is. Hell, all of our family and friends will clue us in, but we just don’t see it. We don’t want to see it. We love being perfect just as we are. Our misery has become our comfort blanket. Because sometimes, we become walking zombies. You wake up. Get dressed. Commute to work. Work. Lunch. More work. Commute home. Dinner. Conan. Bed. Rinse Lather Repeat. Enter apathy, followed shortly by indifference. Next comes depression. And it doesn’t usually hit you at once. It’s gradual. It’s also enveloping. So much so that you don’t see that it’s happened until way too late. So then we take pills to make us not feel the depression. But it’s still there. The pills just cover it up. In fact they feed the lethargy. It’s like putting a towel around your fermenter and thinking that will solve your stuck fermentation. Buzzz. Wrong answer.

 What do you need to do? I already told you. It’s an easy fix. You need a soul nutrient. Something that will make you feel alive again. Try Yoga, home brewing, archery, karaoke, whatever. Anything that feeds your soul, and not the routine that got you into this mess. The problem with most of us is that once we start down the path of monotony or depression we just keep feeding it and feeding it. We either become apathetic about the situation, or we deny it, or more commonly we add fuel to the fire. What you need to do is see the fire for what it is. It is a destructive force that will decimate who you are physically and mentally. You must extinguish this fire by jumping in the lake. You can’t stop drop and roll depression. You can’t end the flatness with subtlety. Drastic measures are in order. But they are easy. It takes only a new hobby. A new friend. An old lover. Go see a show. Anything. But you must act fast. Your soul has a short window of availability for you to reignite the process. Too long, and you’ll have been your own vampire. Drained yourself of all signs of energy, life, essence. You won’t be able to see yourself in the mirror anymore. You’ll only see a package. A package that you used to be able to open to see something extraordinary inside. Now, only a package.

 There are other ways to get stuck. I won’t list them all. You’ll need to figure them out. I’m still trying to figure this all out myself. I get stuck often. The biggest problem is realizing that you are stuck. That life isn’t supposed to be this way. It’s hard, but it’s the first step, and you’ve gotta do it. You have to be honest with yourself. Too often our mind and ego have told us how great we are and how everything is stupendous and the future looks bright and bla bla bla bla…. so why is it that something doesn’t feel right? If everything is going according to plan, why is that panic light flashing in the background?

 It’s because we’ve settled. Rather than explore the world of home brewing, we’ve decided to settle on whoever sponsers the Super Bowl this year. It’s easy. That’ll be the go-to favorite. Always. Sure, everytime you go to the store and buy a six-pack, in the back of your mind you’re thinking “hmmm… I wonder what that Amber Lager tastes like….” but you decide not to risk it. What if you didn’t like it? Then you’d be disappointed. And we can’t have that. Let’s just grab our usual and our expectations will be met. I say no more. I say from now on, listen to that voice in your head. Grab the Amber Lager. See the Indie Documentary you read about in the weekly. Bike to work tomorrow. That voice that tells you to do these things? That’s you. The voice of your soul crying out for nourishment. You’ve just been locked up in the basement by your ego and your mind. They are formidable advisaries. But you must stand up to them.

 Embrace that which feeds your soul. I guarantee you’ll find disappointment. You’ll start to write a blog and have some really great ideas, and then bam. You’ll just stare at your screen and not know what to write. You’ll brew a batch of beer and it will taste like piss. You’ll ask out that clerk at the grocery store, and you’ll get turned down. Big deal. It was your result-oriented/future-mindset that got you into that mode of depression and stuckness in the first place. Life isn’t a result. Life is getting the result, getting to your destination, not arriving at it. Because when you arrive, then what? If you can find that which feeds your soul, and enjoy that process for what it is, and the joy it brings you, you’ll never have to worry about stuck fermentation for too long.

 So for now, this blog is my nutrient. It’s what is feeding my writer’s soul, and freeing my writer’s block. I’m not concerned with the end result, but the process of writing itself. If I get too caught up in the goal, I’ll get stuck and miss out on the entire process. Cheers.

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What happend to the beer I brewed?

So about a year ago I brewed a very tasty Belgian Golden Strong Ale. I drank just about all of it, but saved a 22oz bottle for my wife. She was pregnant while the beer was good for drinking, and I wanted to leave her some to try. So the other night we popped it open and she loved it. I had a small bit in a glass as well. I had no idea where this beer had come from. This was not the beer I last tasted 6 months ago!

 What happened? Time. It was the same beer, from the same batch I brewed a year ago. But this was so much better! So much more refined. Better head, richer flavor, a full and complex aroma. All it took was time. You see, there is still a bit of live yeast that travels into the bottle, and when you add the priming sugar, this yeast eats the fresh sugar and carbonates your beer. But this also finishes the process. With time, all the flavors you had hoped for develop, and you end up with (usually) an awesome final product.

 Awhile back I bottled a batch of American Brown Ale. It’s been bottle conditioning for a few weeks. So what makes this beer an American Brown? There’s a list of parameters that it falls into based on color, gravity, flavor, bitterness, aroma, etc…. It’s just an easy reference to classify the wide array of combinations you could come up with. Humans like to classify things. It makes it easier to communicate, and we are social mammals. There’s nothing wrong with that.

 The problem arises when the classifiers take the place of the true object you’re trying to classify. For example, saying that “I’m a college student” or “I’m a delivery driver” is inherently false. These classifiers are not what you truly are, but just a description of one aspect of your life. Your true self is ever changing, ever in motion, and ever evolving. Your true self is not your occupation, skin color, or hair style. These things are simple human attachments and qualifiers, nothing more.

 Ever bumped into someone you haven’t seen in years? Like 5, 10, or 20 years? It’s almost as if you’re bumping into a different person, isn’t it? You even have to re-introduce your self in a way. Why is that? Time. Impermanence of self. I talked before about finding self. But, where the hell is it? It doesn’t seem to remain constant, does it? Are you the person you were 10 years ago?

 I’m not. In fact, I’m thinking of holding a funeral in his honor. He will be missed by some, (though not most if I remember correctly). But that person no longer exists. Goodbye. I won’t be seeing you. He’s taking the spiritual equivalent of a dirt nap.

 So, if there is no constant self, what the hell are you? If there is no constant beer, what the hell did I just brew, and what’s gonna happen to it? Let me first say that I haven’t a clue about whether or not there is a “soul”. I’ve never seen, heard, or touched one. I’ve yet to hear a concrete explanation as to what it is, what it’s properties are, where it resides, what it’s purpose is, and why I don’t know it exists. So let’s just forget about that, shall we? Maybe that’s for another brewing session. So who/what the hell am I? Well, I’m not any of the superficial me. I’m not really the physical me. The physical me is changing at a rate and quantity I can’t even begin to fathom. Do you know how many of my cells have lived, multiplied, and died in the time it’s taken me to write this? That’s way to big a number to play “99 bottles of beer on the wall” with.

 So, ok. I’m not really the physical me, since it’s in such a rapid state of change that pinning me down would be nearly impossible. Like my beer, the hundreds of thousands of yeast cells living out their natural life cycle are what is making up it’s physical properties, and it’s in a constant state of flux.

 With all of this physical chaos, it’s no wonder my mind is a mess. Hmmm… maybe I’m my mind. My thoughts. Nah, that’s mostly ego, and the mind’s survival mechanism playing itself out.

 Am I my traits? No, because those change as well. I can remember how much of an asshole I was 10, or even 6 years ago. Thankfully, with the help of time and graduating from the school of hard knocks with an AA in skating by, I was able to realize that being a jerk off wasn’t what I wanted from myself.

 This isn’t getting me anywhere. What about the beer? OK, when I brewed the whole batch, it was all the same. Only time made the difference. It was tasty, effervescent, probably the best beer I’ve ever had. But only after a year or so. The first versions I drank weren’t quite as good. But it was the same damn beer.

 OK, what’s different from me now than before? I’m slightly more responsible, much more handsome, quite humble, and generally a much calmer person. But all of these things I’ve learned over time. It was my past experiences that shaped who I am today. Remembering them helps to provide an anchor to these past experiences, so I may draw upon them to better myself in the present moment. Getting closer now….

 So, my past experiences, thoughts, feelings, these are what have helped shape who I am today, but they are NOT me. The “me” of a year ago is no longer. The “me” that started writing this blog no longer exists. So, again, where/what am I? What about that yeast that’s in the bottom of the bottle, “finishing” the beer? What is it that is “finishing” me? Is it my past experiences? The knowledge that I’ve gained? My emotional self? Maybe my evolving ego and mind?

 What I have come to believe is simply this:

I am the impermeable Adam. I exist in the moment before I realize I exist in the moment I exist in. It is when I realize that I exist that the person who existed in the moment before has departed. It is effortless, mindless awareness that allows me a window into myself.

 And then Attachment.

 Attachment has made you believe you are that selfish person you were 5 years ago when you didn’t share that cab with that stranger you were standing next to who was going to the same neighborhood you were. Attachment has made you believe you are a fat person. But you are not a fat person. You are a person who is fat. You exist independently of your weight issues, your impotence, your compassion. You are impermeable. The words your mind uses to describe you are subjective and not absolute. They are not universal law. You are subject to change at your own discretion.

 Knowing that there is no constant self is liberating. You no longer fit into a frame or mold. You are no longer the person your mind has created. It is also a little weird. If there is no constant self, what is it that is changing?

 Back to the beer. What has changed? The beer is still only water, hops, barely and yeast. That’s it. The only thing that has really changed is a bit of biological process, and my own subjective qualities I’ve placed on the beer. Kinda like myself in a way. A few cells die off, a few glands secrete some juices, and I construct a model of who I am in my own mind. This is me. I’m not a home brewer. But I do home brew. That’s the difference. Cheers.

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Transfer of Essence

Today I transferred a batch of ale into the secondary fermenter. The reason you do this is to separate the beer from the yeast cake. Beer is made up of 4 main ingredients: Water, barley, hops, and yeast. The yeast is what transforms the sugars in the barley into beer. Without yeast, you’d have terrible tasting, acrid, cloudy water. Yeast really is the life of the beer. So why would you want to separate the beer from the yeast? Good question.

Too much of a good thing in this case can have unpleasant results. After a few days, the active fermentation has subsided and most of the yeast has settled to the bottom. Fermentation will continue however, but not like it did at first. After a few days, you need to separate the beer from the yeast. I have a 6 1/2 gallon carboy that holds the beer at first, then I transfer to a 5 gallon version. If you don’t do this, the beer will have too much yeast flavor and sediment. It will be cloudy. So for a more refined product, this is a necessary step. 

Personally, I’ve taken this step myself. I transferred myself once upon a time. I lived in Michigan for the first 20 years of my life. My family was there. My schools were there. My friends were there. The “nurture” part of my self was constructed there. My ideals, outlook, inner voice were all a product of my environment. It was my yeast. 

After about 18 years though, my yeast began to settle. It wasn’t sustaining me any longer. It didn’t provide me with what I now needed to finish the process of self. For this, I needed to seek another container. Another environment. A new opportunity for nurture to shape my essence.

 I’m still not sure what the last straw on the camel’s back was. You see, it wasn’t my friends. It wasn’t my family. It wasn’t my job or my apartment. It wasn’t any of those thing that were stifling me. It was me that was stifling me. You see, even when you transfer the beer, millions of the yeast cells still travel with it. So some degree of fermentation still persists. It was this part of me that I couldn’t remove that was stifling me. Causing me to mentally suffocate. 

I hated this part of myself. It was lazy. Apathetic. Unemotional. Detached. Depressed. Irresponsible. The list goes on. I realized that even if I removed myself from the container that created this self, part of that self would travel with me, like the yeast.

 Yet if I could leave some of that part of self behind, was it possible to leave it all behind eventually? To no longer be burdened by the self that I was? I had to try. So I left. I left that container as abruptly as I had entered it 20 years prior. This fresh start would be what I needed. Heading west where the air was fresher. The ideas were fresher. My essence could be fresher. Yet there was still that part of my self that was traveling with me. What of it?

 There is one cardinal rule when home brewing. Above all, make sure everything is sanitized. Sanitation is the most important step you can take to ensure a quality product. It only takes a little bit of wild bacteria or yeast to enter your beer to ruin the whole batch. Ruin the whole purpose. Fermenting ale is about one of the most perfect habitats for bacteria. It’s the perfect temperature, there is plenty of food, it’s safe. When you transfer the beer, you are leaving your beer vulnerable to contamination, which is why sanitation is key.

 On my travel I broke my phone, and scattered the pieces. I left no trail as to where I might be headed. I only brought the clothes and books I really needed. I avoided strangers. I avoided contamination. This journey taking me to my next container was an important one. I needed for it to be free from anything that might contaminate my newly found self. It would not take much to ruin a trip like this. A call home. Befriending the wrong types of people. Getting caught up in the drama of the strangers the accompanied me on my journey across the country. Taking a bus was risky enough.

 So now years later, after I’ve fit into the new container, I have to wonder. Is is really a new process that my self is going through? After all, when the beer is transferred, some of the yeast goes with it. So it isn’t really a new fermentation taking place, is it? It is really the same fermentation that has transpired since the beer was created. There are really only two differences. First, there is the new container. Smaller, more tailored to the final outcome. I have to imagine this is where my self is currently at, in this new container. Second, the saturation of the yeast. It’s easy to see the layer of yeast in the primary fermenter. You can see the process that has transpired over life span of the ale. You can clearly see what effect that original, life giving yeast has had on the beer. Now (after the beer has been transferred from the primary) the beer isn’t so inundated with that which made it was it is today. Now I am detached from the environment that made me, me. Yet part of that self is still present, and that might be the real problem.

 The past and your original nurturing environment is a quick anchor to who you believe yourself to truly be. We all have this aspect of self. It’s the “I” we refer to in our minds when we speak about ourselves. But this is not the real “I”. The true self is the one in our minds we refer to when no one else is around. It’s the real “I” that we cannot lie even to ourselves about. No matter how much bacteria we allow to creep in, no matter how many containers we transfer ourselves to, we cannot escape this “I”. The self. It has always been there. This is what drives some to a life of addiction. They try to cover up the real self with superficial highs. Some of us are trying to escape it. Others are ignoring it. But none of these are healthy or rational options. The only sane thing to do is to accept your self. Fully. Unconditionally. Your self is perfect. It is with this realization that one can begin to truly transform one’s self. Once you can accept your essence for what it is, you can really bring about change in your life. You can get rid of all the bacteria you’ve let in. You can begin to see the container for what it really is: just an empty space that is incomplete without that which fills it. You are not your laziness. You have become lazy out of fear of reaching your full potential of self. You are not beautiful. You have attached beauty to yourself for fear of your true self being ugly. 

I suppose the hardest part is finding that true “self”. The real “I”. We enjoy contaminating ourselves. We’re afraid to face who we really are. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it is a survival mechanism our ego has developed to keep us focused on anything but accepting ourselves and each other for who we truly are. Our mind and our ego like to make us believe it is something that it is not. Our mind likes to think our self is Bad, or Good. Perverted or Pious. Lethargic or Ambitious. But our true nature, simply put, exists. It is. It cannot be good or bad. Those are human attachments. The beer is not how it tastes. That is not what the beer is. The beer is just the beer. It is water, barley, hops, and yeast. And it’s quality does not lie in any of those individual parts. It cannot. For beer is made up of four parts. The quality (or lack thereof) can only be seen or perceived when the sum of all those parts is present. Your quality or lack thereof is only seen when the whole you is present. It is not seen in your liver or teeth.

 So we must take a knife and cut away all of the layers of false self we have covered our true self with. We need to find our true quality of self again. We have built layer upon layer of false self that focuses on the individual parts. Your hair. Your teeth. Your ego. Your attitude. Your intelligence. None of these things separately make up the self. Not one of these things determines who you truly are. Because when we are able to find our true essence, and accept it, then we can truly enjoy our self. We can be at peace knowing we are perfect just the way we are. That the essence of who we truly are cannot be contaminated. It cannot change depending on the container. It simply is. When we reach this realization, we can then begin to deal with the individual parts as individual parts, and not the self.

 As for the beer, well, it is simply those four parts. It’s essence lies when those four parts are combined. If it becomes contaminated, it will still resemble beer. It will still look like beer. Although it’s true self might be hard to taste, it is there in the bottle, waiting to be discovered. Cheers.

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Safety in Progress

The other day while on a coffee break at work I was gazing out the second-story window when I noticed 2 pedestrians. The window immediately overlooks a few parking lots dissected by your usual flower beds, trees, and ornamental shrubbery. For whatever reason, whoever planned the parking lots neglected to leave any sort of walkway through the landscaping. 

The 2 pedestrians looked hesitantly at the landscaping and decided to make a go for it. They nervously took their first steps, the whole time looking over their shoulders for I don’t know what. I could sense their unease through the glass window over a hundred feet away. They gingerly made their way through and onto the next parking lot on their way to the bank next door. 

I can’t help but wonder why these people felt so uncomfortable walking through the shrubbery, and at the same time felt so comfortable on the pavement. Was it security? Familiarity? What has happened to make us fear that what is natural? There was a time in our history when the sight of a highway dissecting the prairie would have been scary, foreign to us. So we’ve now come to the point that it is Nature that is a foreign concept to us. We’ve now adopted such an unnatural way of life that we have to take a vacation just to touch nature. We fight just to set aside a few acres of trees amongst our concrete jungles. 

At what point was it that we abandoned that which is natural for us in favor of progress? Was it the invention of electricity? The Moon landing? The rise of Christianity in the Western World? It was said once “Progress: man’s distinctive mark alone. Not God’s, not the beasts. They are, He is, man party is and wholly hopes to be.” So if this is what sets us apart from the beasts, and propels us forward, where does that leave nature? The beasts? Why do we feel the need to completely leave behind that which is wild and natural? 

It seems as though that through progress, we have left behind a part of ourselves. That which defined us for so long as the Earth’s most noble creatures. Our balance of progress with that of the world that remains constant is what kept this world in equilibrium. Now our progress and technology has taken us beyond that point. The constant, primal world is not needed anymore it seems. As consumers we’ve created a chasm between ourselves and the source of our consumption. 

We have become such a vicarious society that we can’t even fathom the similarities between ourselves and the other creatures that inhabit this planet. Our meat comes in a package with a label on it. Our grains come in a box with 9 different colors of marshmallow candies. We forget that the same life force that once ran through that package of ground chuck is the same life force that sustains us. We have removed all sense of organic being from our way of life, and now even a short trip through the bushes has become awkward, foreign, and unnatural. 

So what is the solution? More camping? Should we all live on family farms again? Rid ourselves of technology? None of that will work. The only solution is to change our definition of progress. Currently we see progress in the technology we forge to better our society. Medicine, nano technology, smart weapons. This is what we view as progress. But if this is what we deem progress, why is there perpetual suffering in the world? Why have we done nothing to truly progress ourselves as a species? 

We’ve been conditioned to believe that nothing we have will ever be good enough. Your ipod will be crap in 2 years, so you better grab the latest and greatest model. You need a new house. A better car. What if we woke up to the fact that we already have it pretty good? We have plenty of water, air, food, shelter, medicine. Your DVD player works just fine. We have enough natural resources to power this planet forever. But what we are steadily loosing is our connection to our past. Our connection to our primal self. We’ve lost that balance of controlled progress. We’ve gotten so caught up in the beauty we see through the vicarious media that we’ve forgotten to look outside our windows. And more importantly, we’ve forgotten to look inside ourselves. For real beauty does not lie in the world of progress, it is an intrinsic part of nature and the self. When we forget this, we end up like those 2 lost people in the parking lot. We assume that beauty is found in progress, because feels safe for us. When in reality, it was in the trees the whole time. Cheers.

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