Hey Profound Bartender

“I have made the journey into Nothing.

I have lit that lamp that needs no oil.”

~Hafiz, That Lamp That Needs No Oil, p. 148

 -Hey mister, you work here?

-No kid, I’m just pouring this pint for the fun of it. S’up?

-My buddy told me there was an older guy named Mikey here who was good to talk to. Y’know, I talk to a lotta people, but I got no one I can talk to, if you know what I mean. My folks, well, they’re great but they just don’t get it or me at all. My buddies, well…hey, you gotta second?

-Two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon, does it look like I’m busy? Sure, I got some time. But first, could I see some ID? K. Thanks. You’re older than you look.

-Hey nothin’ for me anyway, K? Just some a those peanuts. Hey, can I sit here and just kick it around with you a bit? Then I gotta meet some guys over at the library.

-I thought you might be a student. Just outta class? What’s on your mind?  And you can call me Mikey.

-Thanks. My problem sir, er…Mr. Mikey, is that I got people telling me all the time that I have so much potential. Potential, geez. I don’t even know what that is. Anyway, if I hear that “Don’t waste your potential” crap – ‘scuse my language – one more time I think I’ll paint my face the school colors and go crazy at the next game.

Wait, I just did that last Friday.

OK, K, just a little joke. Y’know you really are pretty easy to talk with, here I am just rambling and a gambling with you.

Anyway, ANYWAY…I…don’t…want…that…pressure. I don’t mind working hard, heck I like to learn, hadda great class about protests in American history last week, I felt like I wanted to stand up right there and say to the world, especially my folks, “Just…let…me…be!” My own little protest, but a course I didn’t.

So that’s what I wanted to ask you. How do I reach this potential they keep talking about without worrying about not reaching my potential every morning and every night?

-Hey kid, I gotta secret for you. You are never going to reach your potential, so stop worrying about it.

There, I said it. It’s true, and you know it. If that’s what’s driving you up the wall. You are never going to reach your potential. I HATE to say that just as a new year is getting started, but I think it’s better to be realistic.

And don’t let anyone tell you there’s nothing anyone can do to stop you from reaching your potential. That’s it’s all on you. What that really means is that if you fail to reach your potential – which we will all do – that you are just that, a failure.

That’s a crazy idea, just on the surface.

There are lotsa things most anyone can do to limit your potential, the obvious one being to kill you. That pretty much prevents you, I think, from getting to the red zone of potentiality.

Sounds like your folks made sure you got good schooling, but think about the parent who decided not to make sure their kid had a good education, or the teacher who made you feel like you were working with aces missing from your deck.

I could go on. Lotsa people come into this place just to blow off that guilty sense of failure that comes from not meeting the well-intended hopes of people who love them. Or the mis-intended motivations of those who just wanted to use them, and didn’t care if they used them up.

Y’know what else? Since we’re just chatting it up?

“You can do anything you put our mind to” is also bogus. So put that idea out of your head. Don’t let anybody sell you that bill of goods.

I’m no spring chicken, but I walk like a chicken – or maybe I just waddle – and sometimes I have a hard time stooping over to pick up my shoes these days. I’m 5’8”. I am never, ever, ever going to play in the NFL as Tom Brady’s wide receiver, much less as his left tackle. Just ain’t a’ going to happen no matter how much I might put my mind to it.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

But here is the good news kid. It doesn’t matter where we are or where we end up, we are sitting on true gold.


I never met a perfect person.  I never met someone who hit a thousand.  But I’ve seen some folks who have taken it further than anyone thought they could, including themselves. Who just stretched themselves.  Who loved putting it all out there.  Giving it a go. Trying stuff and finding they could do stuff they never imagined they could do.  Or just living on their own terms, doin’ what they wanted to do or not do.

Those limiters?  Yeah, they’re there.  But – pick a metaphor – you got the gold inside, bud, you got the flame.

And yeah, sometimes it takes a kick in the pants from someone else to get that flame lit or that gold mined.  Sometimes someone helps out to keep that fire going.  But that bonfire is burning on the inside, man.  Never forget that.

I’d say spend some time thinking about what lights you up.  Then you don’t hafta have people light a fire under you. Carry your own lighter. Light your own path.

You know yourself better than anyone.  You know if you are putting it all out there or you aren’t.  If you aren’t, well…you know that too.

A way to look at it kid is that none of us will ever do what we might do, might accomplish, might experience, might learn, no matter how much we do.

There will always further to go.  If we want to go. And that makes life a journey to experience and not a goal to hit or miss.

Trust me kid.  I’m a bartender.

“I have made the journey into Nothing.

I have become the flame that needs

No fuel.”

~Hafiz, That Lamp That Needs No Oil, p. 148



Ḥāfiz. (1999). The gift: poems by Hafiz the great Sufi master (D. J. Ladinsky, Trans.). New York: Compass.

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