Mug Life

“Mug Life” was actually going to be the title of this blog, but everyone said that was stupid. Psh.

Being a college student, I’m already more mobile than most people, and definitely more mobile than most tea drinkers. I am preparing for another move right now to Seattle. My living room is full of boxes. Basically everything in my kitchen is packed except for my tea things, which are in my opinion as necessary as, say, deodorant. That is to say, I guess it’s not necessary, but to me, it’s not really a day until tea has happened, and God knows I am not going to drink the nonsense they serve in Puget Sound’s coffee shops (although I can see myself applying tea to my armpits as a deodorizer? This analogy might need some work).

I occasionally find myself uncontrollably jealous of other peoples’ tea collections. They have so much tea! They have so many teapots! Look, they have a corner or an entire room that is dedicated to tea! My own setup is pretty good, all things considered. I have all the pieces to reasonably imitate the gongfu process and several brewing vessels. I have a good five or six tins to store tea in, allowing me to circulate. But let me tell you: If I didn’t have to start off every tea purchase with, “How well can I pack this for my next move?” I would have a veritable den of tea. We are talking incense and low lighting kind of den.

And a cast-iron kettle! The things I would do to not have to ship a cast-iron kettle!

While I still maintain that tea is a fantastic hobby for college students to get into, as I realize how much tea stuff I actually have, I wonder if simply owning such a plethora of materials is the exact antithesis of the cha dao spirit. Not to mention always keeping an eye out for the next thing could seriously cloud your love for the tea you’ve got if you let it. My interest in gongfu started randomly about a year or two ago and has completely snowballed. It might be that it’s so new that this year has been one of startup costs, and later years will be spent getting to know the ceremony and the things I have purchased for it.But there is so much to get and so many pretty things that I can see how it gets out of hand for some people.I suppose this is where the mindfulness of Buddhism meets the philosophy of tea.

Mindfulness often involves a rejection of materialism. People often believe that if they can get rid of their things, they can get rid of their attachments, but anyone who has ever tried it finds out quickly how untrue that is. The point of a rejection of materialism is to relieve yourself of anxiety. Originally this meant refusing to be manipulated by a capitalist market’s perpetuation of want; a perpetuation which is not consciously falsified but is the result of capitalism’s nature. Some have taken it further than they need to though, or misinterpreted it to mean that the more physical objects they remove from their life, the happier they will be.

Not going to lie: I forgot my cell phone today and am currently in a pit of despair. The anxiety induced by this is so much worse than any “anxiety” I might feel about having a phone whose screen will never even look similar to a piece of paper. How am I supposed to concentrate on being mindful when I am going to come home and find several progressively more worried texts from my fellow tea taster? I have never been hit with the urge to call into a radio station. And yet this morning when I realized I forgot my phone, I wanted nothing more than to call in on the off chance that the woman driving in front of me was listening to the same radio station so I could tell her that if she kept messing with her hair like that it was going to frizz up like a power station.

I was not happy. Nobody that wants to talk to me today will be happy. Often I ignore texts when they come in, but at least those days I have a choice. How on earth is this supposed to make me more enlightened?

Like I’ve said, tea can be as complicated (or not) as you want it to be. The key word there is want. So if I want a tea den, I’ll build one, and I’ll put all the love and thought into it that I feel like. Or, I will buy a box of Lipton tea bags and bounce them around in a plain white mug. It’s not what you’re using, it’s how you’re using it, as they say.

And as for fancy teaware, if you’ve got it, well, you know.

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