It's not only the start of a new decade, but it's the start of the Chinese zodiac cycle. Welcome the shrewd and resilient rat, the creature who teaches us the virtue of being small and working together.
Individually, Rats are small and weak, so they always appear in groups and work together to manage resources. Together, Rats can undermine an entire building by gnawing and nibbling away at the foundations, piece by piece. For this reason, Rat Qì represents the Confucian teaching that all humans must make alliances to flourish. Alone, we can’t do much, but together, we can accomplish anything.
In the Chinese View, individuals are redundant. It is only through alliances that we do anything. No person ever did anything great. Period. Our culture exalts heroes, saints, sports stars, and so on, but all sports stars play on a team.
So, Rat Qì is the antithesis of American Individualism and demonstrates the ideals of the Confucian Tradition, for it views social life as central to existence and represents the human virtue of community. Sociability is required to survive, and no person is special. This is a “Rat realization. Rat Qì, in a sense, stands for the little guy, the underdog, the meek, and the unacknowledged, and it abhors the abuse of the strong over the weak. The Character Piglet from Winnie the Pooh represents this Virtue of the Small, and there is a popular book on this very subject.
Rat Qiì represents a fundamental insight into the nature and value of “things,” appearances, stuff—the resources that compose the world. And in order to work with resources, Rats must take them apart. Not to analyze them (that’s Rooster), but to make them small enough to carry.
Rat Qì represents the most “zoomed in” quality to life—the Rat is very close to everything and, therefore, sees how everything works, how everything is composed, sort of like a magnifying glass or microscope. The impulse to “zoom in” in order to understand is a Rat impulse. The impulse to take apart, dismantle, and dissect are also Rat impulses, again not to analyze but simply to observe, look closely, and take in the details. Modern science is very “Rat,” and I in fact know many Rat scientists.
Rat Qì probes, inquires, and studies in order to make sense of the overwhelming amount of data we perceive through the senses. Rat power breaks everything down into bite sized manageable pieces. This ability allows for incredible “productivity” in the Western sense, and as such, Rats are very capable people.
Rats (the animals) tend to have big bulging eyes, and they make short, quick, twitchy movements. Rat Qì has a nervous quality due to its constant observation, evaluating safety, taking stock of their surroundings.
Rat Qì is the wisdom of the compound nature of things, that everything is composed of pieces ad infinitum. This wisdom communicates that everything compound is impermanent, which is the source of the Rat’s power and fear.
Rat Qì restarts the Cycle emerging from the Pig. If the last year of the Pig represented dissolution, everything falling apart, then Rat Qì this year represents everything coming back into fragments, still dissolute but active, the dust cloud settling, coming back into focus, starting over. Pig is the final blowout, the party, the big bang, and Rat is left to pick up the pieces.
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