My husband Mike likes to talk to cab drivers and Uber drivers and airport shuttle drivers… if your driving us, he wants to talk with you. His father was a driver here on Oahu, as well as a gifted story-teller, and I think Mike realizes the depth of both information and history that these amazing people hold. I actually like that he likes to talk to our drivers. It makes the trip much more interesting and you never know what you might learn.
Last week we were in Florida attending a conference for our Young Living business. We decided to stay in the convention center where the conference was going on and we decided not to rent a car since we would be busy much of every day. When you stay at a conference center without a car you are pretty much held hostage. They charge you crazy prices for mediocre (at best) food and drink and you’re forced, out of boredom, to walk around the man-made environment that is designed to look like nature so you feel better about paying $7 for a bottle of water. It is, in a way, oppressive.
One day we decided to take an Uber to a Puerto Rican restaurant that was recommended to us by one of the valets (we prefer recommendations from local people as the concierges tend to be trained to give tourist-specific advice). We hopped in the back of the car and within minutes the conversation with the driver began. On this particular day the conversation began as it usually does: the drive was going to take a bit longer than we’d thought; the weather was unseasonably hot; no, he’d never eaten at this particular restaurant. I noticed the man’s Caribbean accent and I knew it was a matter of time before…
“Where are you from originally?” Asked Mike.
“Jamaica,” replied our driver (I’ll call him Willy). Then the conversation took a turn that I hadn’t anticipated. The two of them began discussing the similarities among island people; how they are very family oriented; the problems living in a place crowded with tourists, the loss of culture and dignity of the native people. During a pause in the conversation I told Willy that I had been to Jamaica before. I asked him what city in Jamaica he was from and he replied, “Oh it’s a very small place, you probably have never heard of it. St Anne.”
“I’ve been there!” I said. “That’s where Bob Marley was born. I went to visit his childhood home when I was in Jamaica.” I didn’t tell him how I had drank some “tea” from an old Rastafarian man who was selling it outside of Bob Marley’s birthplace (bad choice but it made the bus ride down the mountain more enjoyable). And so, the subject naturally turned to Bob Marley. Willy told us that he had met Bob Marley once right before he died. We talked about his music and Mike said that his favorite Bob Marley song was Redemption Song. Willy agreed that it is the best song that Bob Marley ever wrote. They talked a bit about the significance of the lyrics and how powerful they are…
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
‘Cause none of them can stop the time
To me, this is deep. This made me understand my husband and our driver in a new way. For these two men from different islands share a similar history. Both of their peoples have been oppressed and marginalized for over a century and continue to be treated as less. In my opinion the worst thing about oppression is not that others are mistreated (although that’s terrible, don’t get me wrong). To me the worst thing about oppression is that, because of this mistreatment, the oppressed are convinced that they are less; the mental slavery that comes from oppression is crippling. It makes the oppressed believe that they are unworthy. And that is simply not true.
And whether or not you have experienced oppression, the truth is that you are affected by it. We all suffer from the effects of oppression whether we realize it or not. To allow some to suffer while others go about their day as if all is well in the world affects us at the soul level. To believe that this is how the world should be and that there’s nothing we can do about it is crippling to ourselves and those around us. To put your faith in a system that is unjust is the mental slavery that Bob Marley talks about in this song. And, to some degree we all suffer from it. But there is good news in Bob Marley’s song. The good news is that the redemption can be found within ourselves. We have the power to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.
We are, none of us, better or worse than anyone else. To believe in our own superiority or worthlessness is an illusion and only facilitates suffering. But the good news is that Bob Marley was right; we can free our minds from these illusions. We can change our thoughts and help others to change their thoughts to reflect the light that is in each and every one of us. We all have within us that same spark of life that was given to us by the creator when we first came into this world.We can start today by treating ourselves and those around us with aloha; with love and kindness, remembering that, whether you are a doctor, teacher, waitress, cab driver, or anything else, you share that same light with those around you. We can free our minds from the status quo and in turn we can free the world.
Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have