I recently realized that I don’t know anything about tea, despite years of conducting research, drinking tea, and writing for T Ching. One could also apply that to my knowledge of the rest of the world. I don’t mean this in a self-deprecating way, but more as a humble observation. Be that as it may, it is a little exasperating sometimes to think one has a basic understanding of something only to realize that what one knows is limited by the reality accessible at one given moment. Is this the result of forgetting? Or is knowledge something truly tied to bodily experience — and not to mental abstractions or concepts? I don’t imagine tea knowledge would be any different.
My relationship to tea has changed. I no longer make it for myself, or for my friends, but brew it at work. In fact, that is what I do at work — celebrate tea, try to understand it, explain it, and experience it. Sometimes it feels like a brother or sister whom I may take for granted, but ultimately appreciate and love. I now understand it in a context beyond the experience of making it for myself and for the people I already know. Tea is embodied in strangers and mystery. I learn a fact only to forget it because I am too busy absorbing the situation as a whole.
The people with whom I work know more about tea than I do, or perhaps — because they are all different human beings who understand the world in different ways — I can’t help learning from all of them. I feel gratitude and an inchoate sense of wonder for being out of my element and so open. It’s like I’ve been planted into the earth and am sprouting little tea leaves.
This refreshing post first published on T Ching’s blog on 18 July 2013