Recently I attended a concert tribute to Bob Marley and the Wailers (The One Love Project Show Band) and I just can’t get the songs out of my head. Day and night, I’m hearing the beat, the sound and the lyrics of that reggae music. The thing with Marley is it wasn’t just about the music itself, but about the messages it carried.
One song in particular, Rat Race, contains one of my favourite lines of any song:
IN THE ABUNDANCE OF WATER, THE FOOL IS THIRSTY
Just imagine someone immersed in water, surrounded by water. Water is everywhere. Up, down, around; there is no place where water is not. And here is this person, thirsty, looking for water to quench his thirst. The water is so abundant that she cannot even perceive it. It’s like a fish who is swimming in the ocean while looking for it.
People caught up in the rat race (the large majority of the modern world) are looking for something, running after some ever-elusive result. Money? Success? Yes, but I also know plenty of people who do not work in the typical rat-race 40+ hours/week job who are still caught up in the constant chasing.
The rat race, then, is a state of mind.
In a mental hamster wheel, we are always on the go in this human race. How can I make more money? What do I have to do to get that promotion? When will I be able to have everything I need and want? When I retire, I’ll finally be free. Go to work, come home, attempt be a parent or spouse or friend, go to bed, wake up, rinse and repeat. Take the weekend to try to recover from the week, only to feel even more tired on Sunday night because you drank too much, stayed up too late, or ran around trying to be everywhere and do everything.
Maybe you don’t have that full time job but are juggling multiple things including a family: What’s next? Who needs what? Who has what activity tonight? What do we need from the grocery store? What’s on the calendar this weekend and what gift do we need to buy? You get the picture, right? Now a job AND a family? The race does not end. The rat will drop dead!
In a more subtle way, the rat race can manifest as the incessant stream of thoughts many people live with. From worrying about what others think to fearing what might happen, regretting what did, and feeling like we always have to be working on something to make ourselves better, we are running to keep up, catch up and get somewhere, even if we don’t know where that is.
Back to our fish and the person who is thirsty, looking for water when there is an abundance of it right where they are. Water represents what you need to live and thrive. It’s the source, let’s say, of your sustenance. It’s about having your needs met. It’s about knowing that there is nowhere to get to.
What if you knew, with every part of your consciousness, that what you need is always right there, that it will never run out and does not require you to chase it? Wouldn’t you approach your life in a more cool, calm and collected sort of way? Wouldn’t you breathe more easily if you didn’t feel as though you had to go “out there” and run after that which you and your family need to make it through this life? What if you knew the big truth that there is a larger-than-you intelligence, the same one that governs the cosmos, which knows what you need and knows what it is doing? Ah, but here’s the tricky part: you have to turn to it. You have to get to know it intimately and then trust it. It does not happen overnight, but it does happen. Slowly but surely, it creeps into your daily life to take care of things, without you knowing how.
This doesn’t mean you stop going to work or planning tonight’s dinner. Remember, the rat race is a state of mind. You do what needs to be done as it comes up each day that you wake up, but you do so from a place of detachment and lightness, as though it is being done through you. You give up the notion that you are solely responsible for everything that is on your plate. That’s a heavy plate you’re carrying, and when you least expect it, it will break. Let the plate be carried for you; it’s not yours, anyway.
Take a moment. Or two. Are you thirsty for something which is already within you? Are you willing to see the ocean in which you swim? If so, you have moved from being a “fool” to being a wise vessel through which life will unfold in the way it knows how to.
And then you will never thirst again.