(Bus) Life is Suffering [How I found God at the bottom of my Coffee Cup]
Sitting at the dining room table, I blankly stared outside. It was beautiful watching the old growth trees sway in the wind. I’m currently parked in the heart of nature, the most powerful force on Earth, and I’m thinking about suffering.
Last night, my soon-to-be-wife and I watched Princess Mononoke on our laptop, as we don't have a TV in our School Bus Home.
"On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime."
It was such an incredible story. In one scene, there was an elderly gentleman, Gosa, laying on a cot, with bandages all over his body, having been in pain for a long time. He says to the young traveler that has come through town, that “Life is suffering. It is hard. The world is cursed but still you find reasons to keep living.”
That was very powerful. At the end, Gosa brushed it of as “I'm sorry... I'm making no sense.” It sent my thoughts whirling, and in the morning, I was still thinking about it.
What is my reason to keep living? Why did I get up today? What drives me to get up every morning?
My mind went in a thousand directions as I thought about my passions, goals and dreams. I took a sip of my black espresso, from my white mug labeled with cities from around the world, and I understood it right then and there. It just came to me.
Coffee. Coffee is the reason I want to live.
It’s as good a reason as any to get up every morning. It motivates me to get going, and prepare something delicious for myself. Something to warm up and energize my body for the day ahead. Anything past my morning coffee is a bonus.
Let me explain my thought process. You ready to be in my head for the next few paragraphs?
Come on down to Crazy Town, the Big Blue Bus will take you there.
I hope we don't get a flat tire down memory lane.
With the movie in the front of my mind, and the blunt reality that life is suffering, I knew I had to write about it. How to start? Where do I begin?
The short of it is, I don’t know you very well, and you don’t know me very well. If I write too little or too much, the meaning of my story might get lost. So how do I get my message across?
Having received a minor in Religious Studies back in college, I could describe how I felt through several different World Views. Buddha and Buddhism, the middle way, 4 point path to Nirvana. I could talk by way of Theist versus A-theist views, Existentialists, or Nihlistst. Perhaps explaining “Life is Suffering” made more sense to explain through the words of Jesus and God. Yaweh, Allah. Perhaps talk about the Spiritual Energy abundant in the Universe; not just out there but inside of all of us.
I grabbed my coffee cup, took a sip, and realized how much I love coffee. And there it was!
People all over love coffee, while they fight about religious views and dogmas. But coffee, everyone loves a good cup of coffee. Writing about coffee and love, there wouldn't be much explaining necessary. You know I love coffee, I can imagine you love coffee – or have at least tried it – so we’re all good. (Tea people, I’m not so sure about you…)
I realized that Coffee is what I need to be writing about. We’ll probably find religion and God throughout the thought process anyway.
So coffee, that’s what you live for?
You know how certain songs make you feel certain ways? When your immediate thoughts jump to the moment you may have first heard that song? At a concert, first date, second date. Perhaps the song to your wedding, or a sad song to remind you of a breakup. “Somebody that I used to know” ring a bell? Call me, maybe? Free Bird? Won’t Back Down? Blowing in the Wind?
Coffee does that exact thing to me. I drink coffee, and it moves me right back to other moments in my past where I enjoyed a really nice cup of coffee. (It also moves me to the toilet, but that’s a whole different story.)
Back in college, I didn't drink any coffee. I hated it. I equated it to drinking liquid cigarette ash. (I found out the hard way what ash-water tasted like, sipping a soda can ash-tray accidentally when I was 14) My girlfriend at the time loved Starbucks, and I took sips of her fancy drinks, not liking them at all. I drank hot chocolates and energy drinks instead.
After graduation, I had no idea where my life was headed. I was utterly lost. I knew that a Career was not the path for me, so I had to find out which path was. I needed to find a reason why I was alive in the first place.
A few months later, with diploma in hand, I found myself hiking 2,183 miles along the Appalachian Trail, a foot path leading from Georgia to Maine. It was here that I came to learn the beauty and power of nature.
Who hasn't felt lost in life, and decided to sell everything, buy outdoor gear with the intention of hiking in the woods for 6 months, with a made up persona? Am I right?
My four year degree listed my name as ‘Patrick Schmidt’; my scribbled trail journal listed my trail nickname as ‘Intents.’
Intents I became.
A fellow traveler I met on the trail, by the trail name of Spaceship, thought it would be a great idea to attend church services in whatever town we hiked into, if we found ourselves there on a Sunday.
During one service, of the four we attended, the pastor which looked like Santa clause, asked me if I had met God out there in the woods.
“Well, I’m not quite sure what I would label it, but I’ve definitely discovered a loving and nurturing spirit out there. If that’s God, then maybe I did. Maybe I was simply admiring the beauty of a tree or flower for too long.“ He smiled and finished the service soon after.
One morning, a few months into the hike, I found myself having breakfast at a Fancy Mountain Hut in New Hampshire. I was offered a cup of coffee. I thought to myself “What the hell! Why not? I have yet to drink a good cup of coffee.”
The cook offered me a beige colored plastic mug, with a caramel colored drink, a mix of coffee and milk. I took a hesitant sip. And another.
“Wow! This is actually really good!” was the expression on my face. I couldn’t believe it. Coffee could taste this good! I’ve been missing out! It was the absolute right time to try it and fall in love. (I learned later that this coffee would be considered not dark and not acidic- middle way type thing)
So the trail showed me what Nature was all about, and allowed me to enjoy a really nice cup of coffee for the first time ever. I was 23.
After completing the trail, I moved to Key West, Florida and lived there for nearly 3 years. Being young, care free, early twenties, thinking you know everything and are invincible, what need is there for God or coffee?
I mostly drank alcohol during this time, really wrecking my mental and physical health. One day, at the Fed-Ex shipping store, I saw a sign that read “Ship some Sunshine to Seattle” and it hit me.
That was my next journey in life. I quit my job, packed everything up, and moved from the tip of Florida, to the Pacific Northwest.
Seattle: Rainy City Girl
I didn't drink much coffee in Key West for all the alcohol I was drinking, so Seattle was perhaps the right town for me to land in. I came to absolutely LOOOOVVVEEE coffee.
It was up here, I discovered true love in the form of my fiancee, while at the same time realizing that Life is indeed Suffering; there is such a thing as Hell on Earth.
Halfway through my relationship with my now fiancee, she became a Barista at a downtown Seattle coffee shop and roastery. Free coffee galore! THE BEST WORK PERK EVER! She has made me some of the most amazing cups of liquid love I have ever ingested. Her latte art will forever be a part of me.
I remember one morning and afternoon, which I spent at a local cafe. I sat there, in an an fancy armed Victorian chair, looking into the gas fireplace, thinking about my goals and my passions. I had none. None I could think of, anyway. I sat there writing in my journal. I had a snickers bar latte, refilled with drip coffee when that was empty. I came to know deep depression while living in the dark and damp atmosphere, and no coffee in the world could fix that.
I could not come up with an answer of why I am alive; or why I should live any longer. I was at my emotional end. It was hell on Earth. Nothing cheered me up; A cup of Joe was not a cup of Joy.
Through therapy and counseling I learned that writing is the healthiest way for me to heal, of dealing with the world.
Writing makes everything better for me; life worth living and bearable. What I could not say out loud with my voice, I was able to write down. I wrote a lot during this time, most of which I considered “dear diary” junk. Not worth anything; except to my well being.
Who would want to read what I think and have to say? Who would listen, and more than that, would possibly pay me for the work and time I was putting into my writing?
Then Bus Life happened.
As is the Big Blue Bus finding me, parked in a Church parking lot. The “Lakewood Family Church”
Just about every day during the bus conversion build, while my dad and I were working on the construction, my mom would bring us coffee and cookies and cake, around 3:30 or 4:30 depending how long we had been working, and were continuing to work.
She treated us with so much respect and love everyday, when she felt “inadequate” for not being able to help on the actual build. She helped more than she might ever realize.
A nice cup of coffee, and iced coffee in the middle of summer, was so refreshing and invigorating, and the cookies provided a quick and easy sugar fix for some fast energy. It helped finish off the build for the day, and led us right into dinner.
Love and coffee go great together, which goes even GREATER with writing. They both fuel me to continue improving every single day on my writing skills.
The other morning my fiancee and I were sitting at a local Coffee Shop, and we overheard the conversations going on at both of the tables next to us.
Sitting there, listening to the young kids on my right, and the older couple to my left, I felt that I was both the receiver and the sender. Bridging the gap between generations is what I feel I must absolutely do. The most influential way for me to communicate with the outside world is through writing.
It has been an incredibly hard journey, but here I am. I love to write. I love becoming a better, clearer, and more efficient communicator. Organizing my thoughts as if each one of my memories is but a book sitting on a bookshelf; waiting to be picked up and flipped through. Coffee is the fuel to the engine of my being.
I have high respect for our elders, as well as close enough in age to understand the younger generation. My calling, my service, my reason for living, as I have come to understand it, is to meet as many people as possible, sharing and caring, writing to gap differences in people’s point of view, bridging the gap between misunderstandings. I believe I am here to communicate with my world/surroundings/people through the written word.
So here I am. A writer, as much as I am a home builder. I can do it, and so I am doing it. I will improve my writing over time, as much as I have done renovations on the bus since I moved into it nearly 3 years ago.
It is simply a matter of starting, and heading in the direction of your goals and dreams. Failure is never an option; Working hard and improving slightly, every single day, is.
Working on my memoir, hopefully being published soon, has proven to me how vital writing is to my sanity, quality of life, cleaning out the “gutters” of my mind for new, healthy thoughts to come in.
I am working my way to being able to provide financially for my family through writing, the one thing that keeps me alive and mentally healthy.
I’m not trying to write elaborate and complex word masterpieces; I’m just trying to write and be able to share it with you, while drinking a nice cup of coffee.
This cup of mostly water, infused with a magical bean from faraway lands, creates a bond and union with those who know what a nice caffeine buzz feels like.
We crave a different kind of Buzz.