The Tao of Coffee

The Tao of Coffee

A Story by Jim Walters


Two scholars spent the better part of an afternoon in a local Portland Starbucks arguing the theories of Evolution versus Creationism. Getting nowhere, they took the advice of the Chinese guy working there and decided to drive to the beach and visit a sage named Chung Lee who reputedly had the answers.

Upon arrival to his shack hidden amongst the coastal dunes not far from Astoria, they parked and started up a hill to where the old sage sat on a cliff facing the sea. After quietly approaching him the old man turned, directed his eyes upon them and asked, “Where's the coffee?”

The two became puzzled. “Sir," One said. "We were told you could help us with the greatest philosophical dilemma of our age . . . perhaps even give us some insight into the theories of which we are about to speak.”

“Yes, of course.” Chung Lee answered. “But go now, next time you come, bring me a cup of Starbucks coffee, then we will speak of your theories.”

The following morning the two checked out of their motel at the crack of dawn and returned to the hill. This time One carried a large cup of Starbucks coffee. After greetings, he handed the old sage the cardboard tray and the two opened their portfolios, each anticipating a quick and decisive victory.

Chung Lee, while sipping his coffee quickly went over each theory, handed the papers back, looked out to sea and finished the coffee before beginning to speak.

“The two theories are mere disciplines, and although seemingly opposing views, upon deeper reflection are one and the same. The difference lies in your interpretation and in your desire to understand the mystery. But alas, the mystery cannot be contained within a theory, so you are both beating your learned heads against a brick wall.”

Going on he said. “Each theory is merely a doorway, and being so can never explain the goings on within the room. You need theory to find the doorway, but once opened this very same discipline becomes your stumbling block. Theory will never reveal truth, only the pathway to it.

The two looked at each other, excused themselves and walked back to the car.

“This is a wise man?” One asked the other. “”He sends us for coffee, then he comes up with this gibberish?”

“Yes, it is strange,” answered Two. “Yet his reputation is such that there has to be something we are missing. Let's give him a chance to prove himself.”

The two went back to where the old man was sitting. “Sir, excuse us, but neither one of us understands. What are we missing?”

The old man held up the empty cup. “This cup will always contain a mystery, but as you smell of it, sip of it, and enjoy the taste of it, you one day realize you don't really care HOW Starbucks made such a good cup of coffee, you are just glad they did. And thanks be to the mystery, as long as there are people like you seeking to understand it, I will never have to worry about getting my morning cup of coffee.”

The old man dismissed them with a smile and returned his gaze to the sea.


© 2009 Jim Walters

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Bravo, this was a really great little story on wisdom, I am always confounded by those who think there actually is answer.. We live the questions ..

Posted 13 Years Ago

This reminded me in part of Douglas Adams, minus the space travel. I enjoyed the commentary you provide, and find the idea of a sage who gets his kicks from Starbucks to be a concept beyond divine smugness!!! --though I am a Dunn Bros. yogi myself. Well done.

Viva la

Posted 13 Years Ago

ah, what a wise man . . . there are so many mysteries, and I am thankful for every one of them

Posted 13 Years Ago

Very clever and amusing. I think I'd enjoy talking to that old man for a bit, but don't think I'd ask any questions. I'd just let him tell me the things he thinks are important. This some outstanding writing, Jim.

Posted 13 Years Ago

I love this! You share both wit and wisdom in this story. Flows well and holds interest from start to finish. It's a very enjoyable read.

Posted 13 Years Ago

Inventive, creative, a good write.
An even better read.
Great job.

Posted 13 Years Ago

Well, we can tell ourselves that things are not as they seem enough times to believe it. But really, things are pretty much exactly how they seem.
This is a good story, and the coastal dunes not far from Astoria, are a strange and beautiful place. I have traveled there to witness winter storms, but never ran across ol' Chung Lee.......
Ancient Wisdom for a Cup of Coffee indeed......

Posted 13 Years Ago

HaHa!! Love it..
Why do we always want to make life out to be this thing that HAS to be explained. it just is.simple. And a wise man he is for needing coffee first!! Love this piece..

Posted 13 Years Ago

A little Tom-Robbinsesque, when he could still write worth a damn. Maybe a wee bit too easy to see where it was headed, but an enjoyable trip nonetheless.

Posted 14 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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9 Reviews
Added on September 21, 2009
Last Updated on November 11, 2009


Jim Walters
Jim Walters


been an airborne soldier...been a hippie . . . been a religious nut . . . been an Alaskan fisherman and off season bush rat . . . been a carpenter/home builder. Am a husband . . . a painter . . . .. more..

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