Swim Upstream

Swim Upstream

Epiphany 32


It was with no small amount of surprise when someone introduced me as a lifestyle blogger.  I do not discuss fashion, what I eat, where I went, or even trends.  I do not spend a great deal of time thinking about labels except to organize things but I have to confess I would have been hard put to categorize this blog with a label.  Still, was I really a “lifestyle” blogger?


What we do is discuss life and the various ways to live it.  Spirituality and religion play a big part because I think they are the fuel that drives the engine of our lives.  I never would have said this was a theological blog, however.  I hope it causes you to think and perhaps ponder how you are living but does that make this a lifestyle blog?  Apparently, to many, it does.


Then I was asked to write a lifestyle piece.  I thought, given the above paragraph, that I had been doing just that.  Be more specific, I was told.  Okay.  Here is my specific lifestyle piece.  I really don’t think it is much different than the other almost eleven hundred posts but you can decide.  As always, I would love to get your feedback.


We all get caught up in the hectic pace of life, the “rat race” as it was called in the 1950’s.  The exact origin of the phrase “the rat race” is unknown but it does appear in the 1947 John Steinbeck novel “The Wayward Bus”.  A female character describes her father’s lifestyle as “He was afraid of his friends and his friends were afraid of him. A rat race she thought.”


A rat race is any exhausting, unremitting, and usually competitive activity or routine, especially a pressured urban working life spent trying to get ahead with little time left for leisure, contemplation, etc.  Rats are often portrayed as running around and around through a maze in a laboratory setting to gain the coveted prize – a piece of cheese.  Their one focus is the prize at the end and little attention is paid to anything else.


The rat race typically means no work-life balance, no independence, high stress, long commutes, and general dissatisfaction with life. Work-life balance refers to a proportionate way of life. While work is necessary, its purpose is to provide the means to enjoy a satisfying life.  Many people caught up in such a rat race suffer burn-out, and often have higher incidences of divorce, addiction, and other poor health problems.


“A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice, lest you jeopardize your chances of self-promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts. And before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit.” These words were spoken by Jimmy Reid, at a Glasgow University address in 1972 and are still true today.


So how do we avoid the proverbial rat race?  We learn to swim upstream.  This is not easy but it really is not that hard either.  When asked if he ever thought man would go to the moon, Neil Armstrong answered with a strong affirmative.  He felt it was in the nature of man to challenge known science and to explore.  He was proven correct when he became the first man to walk on the moon.


Life is about living, really living, not just going through the motions.  It requires us to be fully involved with the process of being alive.  W.C. Fields once said: “Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream.”  My lifestyle tip for your today is to swim upstream and really enjoy being alive.  Lady Gaga sang this in her performance Of “Born This Way” last night, “I’m on the right track baby; I was born to survive.  I’m on the right track baby; I was born to be brave.”

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